We are republishing these wonderful poems by Sneha Madhavan-Reese here in full, with apologies, as they were wrongly attributed to another author. 

Mari-Lou Rowley, Editor, Grain


OUR UNRULY SCIENCE     |     Sneha Madhavan-Reese

      the language of poetry has something to do
      with the open mouth the tongue that jumps
      up and down like a child on a shed roof calling
      ha ha and who’s the dirty rascal now?

           –Anne Szumigalski, “Our Sullen Art”


if it seems like Greek that’s because it is
the letters that stand for concepts and constants
in scientific lingo like π for the ratio 
of a circle’s circumference to its diameter
or ε for emissivity     the letters lend 
an air of romance some say wouldn’t you 
a whiff of grace to what might be called
rigid and uncreative     some say that science
has no room for artistry but it’s true
the language of poetry has something to do

with mathematical beauty     who can deny
symmetry and balance in models and equations
the elegance in the zebra’s stripes the fuzzy 
balloons of atomic orbitals the delicate 
mechanics of wrist bones     we mortals strive
to tame them try to smooth the bumps 
in our descriptions but the best we can do 
is get ever closer to the truth     have you seen
a leopard run the way the muscle pumps
with the open mouth the tongue that jumps

the teeth that glint and paws that barely touch
the ground scarcely make any sound? 
we need shelves of textbooks just to begin    
evolution anatomy metabolism all the way down 
to the fluid mechanics of pumping blood 
cellular molecules and their atomic joinings
not to mention the geography of habitats  
global climate and our galaxy’s cosmology
we ought to be humble on our knees crawling
up and down like a child on a shed roof calling

for help as we totter on the edge of understanding 
but lately it seems we think we’ve reached wisdom 
and we’re quite proud of ourselves aren’t we? 
but no one can say where a tornado will strike 
no one knows how consciousness arises or why 
matter came to outnumber antiparticles which is how 
we’re here to write poetry at all     listen
turn off your money machine and you’ll hear
the voice of the cosmos whispering down
ha ha and who’s the dirty rascal now?



     Mist is when the sky is tired of flight
     and rests its soft machine on ground: 


    then the world is dim and bookish
    like engravings under tissue paper.

         –Craig Raine, “A Martian Sends a Postcard Home” 


There come days when the air is warm
and yet snow covers the ground. We dress 
like animals that molt, losing layers of fake feathers 
while we walk. Neighbours emerge after hibernation; 
we fuss over each other, and over the tiny shoots 
we see in each other’s gardens. They might be tiny, 
but they are green, and we greet them,
the first bits of green after a season of grey.
In the early morning, after a cool night,
mist—the sky is tired of flight

and our street, damp and quiet, 
is enchanted. What forged this sorcery 
that makes us revel in the chill, after 
wrapping ourselves against it for so long?
We leave the house without hats or gloves. 
Breath clouds from our mouths,
but we do not notice; we are distracted
by birds in numbers we barely remember.
Before us, a red-breasted robin flutters down
and rests its soft machine on ground: 

he tries a patch of mud for worms
while we marvel as if at a child 
displaying some new skill. We are proud of him; 
he is our own offspring: in spring, everything 
becomes ours. Possession 
floods our bodies, and we do not resist 
feeling possessed. We walk on as if in dream.
These are precious moments, when all living things 
reveal themselves as our relations. A few hours’ flourish,
then the world is dim and bookish

once again. By afternoon, the sun
has scorched through all bewitchment.
We sit in sombre houses, restless, unable to summon 
the awareness we were so sure of in the morning.
Are our brains magic or machinery? Our selves, 
continuous and stable, or veiled in ever-changing layers?
We try to read but find our minds to be 
fuzzy and dull like the fog. Words
shimmer and evade us like vapour,
like engravings under tissue paper.



Sneha Madhavan-Reese is the author of the poetry collections Observing the Moon (Hagios Press, 2015) and Elementary Particles (forthcoming from Brick Books, Fall 2023). Her writing has appeared in publications around the world, including The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2016. She lives with her family in Ottawa.