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Inhabiting the Inexpressible

I began this poem in a doctor's office while reading Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson. I found myself having to re-read sentences, pages and even entire chapters! The story of the Big Bang is downright mind blowing and, in my case, incomprehensible. As I walked home from my appointment, I recalled a passage from Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain.

"Now when I had mastered the language of this water, and had come to know every trifling feature that bordered the great river as familiarly as I knew the letters of the alphabet, I had made a valuable acquisition. But I had lost something, too. I had lost something which could never be restored to me while I lived. All the grace, the beauty, the poetry, had gone out of the majestic river!"

I was introduced to this quote and the passage from which it was plucked during my freshman year in college. I felt Mark Twain had articulated what I had long felt but found inexpressible. With knowledge comes gain and loss. This poem was inspired by my attempt to read Astrophysics for People in a Hurry and the memory of having read Life on the Mississippi.

Inhabiting the Inexpressible

by Lauren Taub Cohen

I struggle to comprehend

the conditions

that caused

the symphonic


of the Big Bang

and the orgasmic reactions

that ensued within

fractions of a single second.


I try to keep pace

with the text –

bozons, quarks,

protons, neutrons…

My brain spirals down into

a dizzying state of delirium

while my mind remains placid

and awash in awe.

This tension between

knowing and not-knowing

between science and mystery

is a sacred space

where poets dwell

and poems are born.

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