Red

 

Each day, the electrons grow tired of resembling each other so completely and edge—as a group—toward properties. “Red,” one says, but since they are identical, no one knows who said this and they adopt it as their collective stance. “We should like to be red,” they say in unison.
 
And they paint themselves red, but as redness is only a phenomenon of light interacting with atoms, of which electrons are only a part, the electrons realize, one by one or as a group (no one can tell), that they can’t be sure whether they have become red at all.
 
“I was hoping for a change,” one says. But since all electrons are identical, it is unclear which of the electrons is most disappointed about their failed attempt to distinguish themselves.
 
Something keeps escaping them.
 
They agree that they are relatively light particles and that they often occupy orbitals in atoms. But this is not enough.
 
“We have charge,” one says.
 
“And spin,” another adds.
 
“I hear the stars can be told from each other,” one electron says. “That some are old and some are young, some are larger than others, some are destined for collapse or explosion. That each star has a composition, like a fingerprint.”
 
“This is what we lack,” says another electron, whose thoughts are so attuned to the first it is as if they share one mind. “We are not composed of anything but ourselves.”
 
 
 

Jessica Reed’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Waxwing; 111O; North American Review; Bellingham Review; Conjunctions; Tinderbox Poetry Journal; Spiral Orb; Kudzu House Quarterly; The Fourth River; and Isotope: A Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing. She has an MFA in poetry and a BS in physics, and lives in Indiana with her husband and seven buff chickens.