Houston Public Media Catherine Lu | April 3, 2018
The Houston poet reads a poem inspired by nuclear physics and romantic love.
In this sound portrait, we meet poet Joseph Machado. He talks about the intersection of science and the arts, and how poetry can help change the world. He reads his poem whose full title is “On the Occasion of the Start-up of the Wendelstein 7X Stellerator Reactor at the Max Planck Institute (A Love Poem to Nuclear Fusion).”
Joseph Machado’s work has been influenced by the Beats, the sciences, and unusual forms such as palindromes. He has a PhD in Polymer Science, has published extensively in the scientific literature, and has worked in a variety of roles and locations in the oil and gas industry for 30 years. Originally from Massachusetts, he has been a performing poet in London and Houston. He is also on the Board of Horse Head Theatre Company, has a life-long interest in fitness, was recently married, and has three grown children. He serves on the organizing committee of Houston Poetry Fest and leads the Houston chapter of 100 Thousand Poets for Change.
On the Occasion of the Start-up of the Wendelstein 7X Stellerator Reactor at the Max Planck Institute (A Love Poem to Nuclear Fusion)
A potato peel of starry stuff
As hard to hold as love’s embrace
When gravity is not enough
Can magnets hold our hearts in place?
When gases noble as fair Helios
Quicken their dance from slow to fast
And gyrations grow so wild and furious
That their gaunt electric veil is lost
Ten million Kelvins will never do
To describe the rage that is unleashed
And a billion Teslas still too few
Whose frozen coils contain the beast
And along its track electrons race
Careening down their Mobius strip
That seething ember protons trace
And join together for the trip
Beside their bond all else seems weak
The love that stirs each cosmic flame
If we could but do it on the cheap
Our world would never be the same.
This poem is reprinted with permission by the author.
Music used: Piano Sonata No. 1 (excerpt) and Expansions (excerpt) by Kris Becker from Kris Becker: Expansions; Like Still Water (excerpt) by Thomas Osborne from Aperio: Across Oceans; Celestial Sphere (excerpt) by David Crowell from Ian David Rosenbaum: Memory Palace.