Two Poems

Images of the Bubble Chamber

[audio link]

for J. Lys, who commuted, 
A. Lys, who fixed the electricity,
& I.M. and electronic commutes.

My father plays
with giant toys
in the bubble chamber
He speaks
the language
of computers
and subatomic

The bubble chamber
mom explains,
is where
dad went
to take pictures
of smashing atoms,
collisions faster
than human sight.

We went once
to Chicago
we entered
the maw
of the great
laboratory: Fermilab.
Outside: great black
mass against
the dark sky,
an alien
an engineer's
Inside layers
up and up
floors encircling
the atrium,
tube shaped railings
guard the stairs,
mini cyclotrons
never ending

At home
I collided with words
like top quark, Fortran
computer languge,
named Cern and SLAC,
and the Berkeley Lab:
Ernest Orlando Lawrence.
My father's work address:
1 Cyclotron Road.

What does your dad do?
I could never pronounce
physicist, the spelling
confused me, the s-i-c-i-s,
safer to say he does physics.
I knew that once a month
he flew to Fermilab,
the bubble chamber
deep underground
with the atom tracks,
gluons and muons
and particle physics.

I was terrified the plane
would crash, collide
with wind or water.
Mom knew
the electricity
in our house
would stage a revolt
pop, circuits
break, brakes
on the car
to fail


By the shores of Gitchee Gumee

[audio link]

for Tess & Gayle, Cousins in Family Archaeology

By the shores of Lake Superior,
the Ojibwe's Gichigami,

Perhaps there lay the region
the origin of my people.

Mr. Stroud recited Longfellow
a poem for 2nd graders,

Hiawatha delivered
by a poet of color

took on a tone of something known,
not a white man's notion.

I think I may be Cree or Ojibwe, I
gather artifacts, weaving

family trees which lead
to Gichigami, to a permanence

in my family's sojourn
in North America after all,

by the shores of Gichigami,
by the shining Big-Sea-Water.

Or call it the Ojibwe's Ocean,
Anishnaabe Gichgamiing.

—LynleyShimat Lys, Jerusalem