INSERT SHOT: Einstein’s notebook 1905 — DAY
Einstein defining Special Relativity
1: a theory that is based on two postulates (a) that the speed of light in all inertial frames is constant, independent of the source or observer. As in, the speed of light emitted from the truth is the same as that of a lie coming from the lamp of a face aglow with trust, and (b) the laws of physics are not changed in all inertial systems, which leads to the equivalence of mass and energy and of change in mass, dimension, and time; with increased velocity, space is compressed in the direction of the motion and time slows down. As when I look at Mileva, it’s as if I’ve been in a space ship traveling as close to the speed of light as possible, and when I return, years later, I’m younger than when I began the journey, but she’s grown older, less patient. Even a small amount of mass can be converted into enormous amounts of energy: I’ll whisper her name in her ear, and the blood flows like a mallet running across vibes. But another woman shoots me a flirting glance, and what was inseparable is now cleaved in two.
CUT TO: (seven years earlier)
INSERT SHOT: Albert replies to Mileva’s letter announcing that she’s pregnant; He addresses her by his nickname for her, Dollie. May, 1901 — DAY
Exciting news, my dear–
I have been pacing elliptical orbits
around my desk, twirling
locks of my hair through thoughts,
and I may have an experiment for generating
cathode rays by ultraviolet light.
As for your news, promise me
you’ll never cease being
the elegant equation of (little street urchin)
times (infinity) times the (speed of light).
INT. 1919 — NIGHT
Mileva, recently divorced from Albert, is sitting at home peering into a photograph of Albert with his cousin and now second wife, ELSA, after their recent wedding
Possibly, she’s more of a wife
but could she be more of a woman,
too? A floppy hat and a smile,
strands of hair astray,
a cloth purse and sound shoes
that led her to my husband who doubles
as her cousin—not much of a threat
but not so safe, either. He thinks
he’ll experiment by taking a second wife.
Men behave as particles do
while being observed in light: they
respond differently in the dark
when you can’t watch how they move.
I’ve worked math to prove to the world
that his thoughts were elegant; I’ve birthed
our children; I’ve laid my face in his hair.
I look at this couple and see myself in her.
I was young, scientific and willing
to fall into equations, through the infinite
yearning to understand physical laws
of action and reaction, of the force
of a mass in acceleration, of what’s inert
and what work puts us back in motion.
People ask if I’m jealous
of science, as if I were a seamstress
instead of a physicist by training. Now,
another woman is by his side, and no
one asks my opinion. If they did,
I’d tell them the same truth I’ve said before:
what can you do? One gets the pearl,
the other the jewel box.
INT. Berlin’s Philharmonic Hall — 1921 — NIGHT
German Nobel Prize winning physicist and Nazi supporter PHILIP LENARD holds a public forum of the Anti-relativity League denouncing relativity and “Jewish physics”; Einstein attends.
And the sun will cease in a scene
much like this: ruined reputations remind us
that prominence doesn’t protect people
who commit brilliance–the hubris to bear it, that is–
and defend friends against fools who hate
truth and tolerate nothing. Well, after this,
what can we believe in? How can we believe?
Philip Lenard makes moves
and trust turns from us to tax
the days when the sun says
this is a day that things must be done.
The revelry is reversed and heads reel
from the crimson morals credited to crowds
lusting after their own lives and livelihoods.
Look at him, festooned with the fear of friends.
A physicist serving anti-Semites,
booking Berlin’s Philharmonic Hall, which,
even to refute relativity, reminds
us of what men must be mindful.
So I sit and listen to Lenard’s followers:
anti-peace, anti Einstein.
My seat in the audience warps space
and time; the entire hall turns
to energy, granting gravity to grow,
to stretch the light of their strained spirits,
frozen in time, in this temple of intolerance.
Of course, how these hovering black holes
do this—a prism of primal possibility—
is in my head, as I handle this hell.
Let them taunt; my mind is taut.
These poems appear in Quantum Lyrics, W.W. Norton & Company