The Helium Thoughts

A poem


Stars rotate steadily on their axes

because each always thinks the same thoughts

about the same things.

Plato, Timaeus (40A)


Our starry brains — their frail shells stuffed

with as many neurons as the galaxy has suns.

On this sunlit afternoon, I clutch

my temples to keep the giant number in.

More synaptic links than there are seconds

in thirty million years. The combinatorics

make me spin. We could think anything.


And yet the helium thoughts of youth consume us.

The paths of thought are bound in myelin,

spiral arms that wrap us tightly in the past — our own.

The tracks of evolution. Thought’s locks spin

in pre-set combinations and conclusions.

It’s hard to get past helium

when we are still so young.