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General Theory

On September 14, 2015, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration observed
the first gravitational waves from two colliding black holes, confirming
the final undetected prediction of Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Poincaré first predicted in 1905 

the existence of gravitational waves—

their radiant curve of spacetime

how skin, muscle echo sinew, bone

—then again, Einstein, in 1916.

Little theory of our world, its gravity.

And one billion years before

all this—though before may be a misnomer, 

years a thermodynamic accident—two black holes 

fell together, bodiless to bodiless dark. 

The hour of your birth, their wedded

sound arrived on earth. We listened,

ear tipped toward cosmic pulse, toward you,

the sonographer’s song. Little theory, 

your heart the size of an American

black walnut. I plucked you from darkness,

tucked you in my own lightless body. 

I hope you will forgive this wanting 

for you. Years later—though later may be

a misnomer, too—you tell me

how long you expect you will 

love me. Until the last number

you say. Now I am counting the spill

of integers, wondering when

it became thinkable: how even

our universe will pull itself apart


Julie Phillips Brown in a blue and gold dress, seated at a silver café table, writing.

Julie Phillips Brown is an interdisciplinary poet, visual artist, literary critic, and editor. She is the author of The Adjacent Possible (Green Writers Press, 2021), winner of the Hopper Poetry Prize, and a recipient of the Freund Prize from Cornell University. Her writing appears in Ariadne, Borderlands, Columbia Poetry Review, Crab Orchard Review, Denver Quarterly, interim, Plume, The Rumpus, Twyckenham Notes, Vassar Review, Yemassee, and elsewhere. She lives in Lexington, Virginia, where she teaches creative writing, literature, and studio art. Find her at tactualpoiesis.com.