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Tuesday, November 27, 2018


by Sally Zakariya

On November 16, 2018 the redefinition of the kilogram (as explained above) was approved at the general confrence on weights and measures in Versailles by a vote of 57 nations. Henceforth, all seven units in the International System of Units, otherwise known as the S.I., will no longer be defined by material objects and instead will be defined only by abstract constants of nature.

“What we call ‘measurement’ is an estimate. . . . The true value, only the universe knows.” —Stephan Schlamminger, National Institute of Standards and Technology, quoted in The New York Times, November 16, 2018

I can’t hope to understand,
not with a C in high school physics,
but what was real, material, a sleek, smooth shape
with heft in the hand, is now—what?
abstraction, mathematical mystery
Avogadro’s number
Planck’s constant
arcana of the mind, someone else’s mind.

Le Grand K, as they called it when it still reigned,
is an artifact of history now, the reality of kilogram
a mental construct beyond my comprehension.

Well, let the universe do the math
as it does for all of us, for everything,
for the humming telephone wires
outside my window, for the squirrels
scurrying up the oak tree.

Let the universe measure my life, my worth,
and everyone’s. Knowing physics and math
won’t be enough—as hard as you hold
onto reality, the truth is seldom simple.

Sally Zakariya’s poetry has appeared in some 75 journals and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her chapbook The Unknowable Mystery of Other People is forthcoming from the Poetry Box. She is also the author of Personal Astronomy, When You Escape, Insectomania, and Arithmetic and other verses, as well as the editor of a poetry anthology, Joys of the Table.