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A journal for storytelling, arguments, and discovery through tangential conversations.
God in the Particulate
Tuesday, October 10, 2023 | Emily Zuberec

Simulated data from the Large Hadron Collider particle detector shows the Higgs boson produced after two protons collide. Source via



Poster of The CERN accelerator complex. Source via


How to explain: 

For everything that exists, there is an unexisting. 

For everything that matters to me, there is the other matter, an un-story told in calculations regarding matter. Super symmetry of the Standard Model. These ringed fingers pursue individual tasks under the guise of hand. 

I wake up in the middle of a decision: work at the diagram or work at the window. Touch and orientation. I wear jeans and a bra for now. 

Abundant particularity of oak accompanies my note taking. Juice from a cantaloupe so alive it cites a future rot.   

Somewhere in the central section of the loosely-spherical island, I begin. 

In the innocuous overlapping rings, I start my observations. Slowly, I turn my head. Try to find the end of the sky. I don't wear a belt. Unchosen words swirl into a ball, reverting to their original density, blocking my view. In the time it takes to find the loose-end, everything happens. On the sofa I read the news without thinking about what I should try to say. My jeans pull away from my stomach, exposing a tarnished belly ring. This body so present, a mind stretched thin and I forget where I am. 


In the space of words and the ripple between them, this story was spun. 

It went so fast I lost track of the hand that kept the momentum going. The apartment next door is being gutted violently, the structure barely has time to rest overnight. Wood resists, recalling habits. A blur of time and the absence of a hand. 

Count me in: three, two, one, one one-hundredth, one-hundred twenty-six billion volts, only one apartment inhabited out of six. One moment, I'll be right back. 

Decrescendo of a branch across the window, the persistent depth of leaves and my solitude with their restless part of everything. 

In the current view on the rules of the universe, focus is trained on the physical object of the field. The field seeps through all space and time. A constant wind through pressed image of long hair. Cluttering, knotting. Without a way to predict the mass of leaves or density of their shade. As in, there's no way I could've predicted the effect a tiny quadrant of an oblong island has had on me. From the left-hand side of the diagram, I observe the ineffability of a repeated motion. Green with so much space, blue ruptures through. In foliage I begin. 

Patterning a surface inflected with exteriority and interiority. A rhythmic hammering my body comes to integrate. Image itself senses its limits. A trained vine creeps. Brick walls shed dust.


The question the hand reaches to grasp: how did everything come to be just so? To end the beginning with a look behind, back over a trail of seeds and germinating sprouts, instead of a forward moving ellipses. I don't let myself unfocus as I track the blown glass sun dropping behind the elementary school on the other side of the alleyway. I catch a glimpse of the smallest ring from inside the largest ring and someone is grilling meat, fat wafts. Someone has left the hose on, flooding flower bed. I go back inside.

To research the beginning, a constellation of verse. The hand makes a gesture that moves from innocence to elsewhere. Curtains rendered taut by movement of air through the single pane window. In the present, the difficulty distinguishing between the remembered and the misremembered page. Stained violet and bursting with other metaphors for existing alongside. There's a sticky patch on the right leg of my jeans. 

My hand takes notes while my memory wanders into the image of unassuming shingles, blooming lilacs swinging like a bell, signalling the season of plentitude. A retaining wall, lawn slipping onto the road for a lack of curb. The enoughness of that which is known. Everything in the garden gone to seed. Becoming field. Nudging against the form, a model for imbuing. 

An invisible mass-giving field that must be agitated by hand to understand the beginning and why the beginning mattered as I take a break from my screen. Who celebrates this drawn out day of light? When I look back over the work I've done, I see how precariously I've balanced the point. As in, we're balanced on a knife's edge and we don't know why. 

The field is covered in grass and as it stirs it streaks gold. Clockwise we turn.

The other beginning, the one conjugated by matter, is marked by precise instability. The moment is clear until consciously revisited, then a clump of pollen confuses the timeline. 


In these first moments after the beginning, everything was hot and dense. As it cooled, conditions created other conditions, suffused through the whole event, establishing that which now matters. I was born into a family, in the crease of the year. I take off my jeans and leave them on the floor.

Traffic mixes with the breeze and footsteps from upstairs and then I'm in the circle, as in, the circle is not alone because it contains itself and I wonder about when we're made separate. 

Two protons are fired at each other in a freezing magnetic chamber. Guided by the curve of the ring. 

The analogy is of two sewing needles blasted across the Atlantic. Already pale green is in the past, each sheath of grass now blonde and forming the story of future dryness. I stir my iced coffee counter clockwise with a plastic straw and in the swirl I'm there, in the eventual scorched field. Residue clings.

When needles collide, my focus is elsewhere, back towards the other side of the apartment to watch the sun as it finally dips out of sight, below the bottom ring of the diagram. Undiscerning vines inflected with eagerness, rough stems and swollen bud on the brink of expanding leaf. The earth rotates, I tilt my head, the field is now out of grasp. 


A few millionths of a second later dust in my mind's eye settles around the crux of desire. A centre around which to revolve. The nuclei. The sun is out of sight and yet insists on sustaining a glow. 

Wind from the spinning of the proton smasher sweeps through the field of uncertain numbers, dislodging crickets, ladybugs, blue and green beetles. Wings and more wings. Third era of data collection, third decade of my notetaking. Precisely, I count three other people on their balconies facing east.

Pressed lilac preserved between pages of the index, in which there is no note for unlucky quantum fluctuation. 

Consider that a circle is necessarily a reaction. Of inside to outside, departure and arrival, vertigo and stability. I see these rings and still nothing happens. I say to the diagram: loop me in. 

Syllable by syllable, ring by ring. The idea that this will all collapse in 10 to 100 years cuts through the remembered grass like a scythe.

We were green and inconclusive. We were pulmonary. A fresh breath. 

I peer over the side of the balcony and the lanes of traffic and unpredictable sounds rise up three stories. An auditorium of unresponsive faces as you read your lines. As the story goes, the field, field of view, and the view from up here continue. This is just the beginning. I repeat my lines. 

The above ekphrastic text was written by Emily Zuberec as a response to a Wikipedia diagram of the CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, or European Council for Nuclear Research) facility in Switzerland. The diagram plots various particle, nuclear, and experimental facilities with corresponding technical information. Zuberec engages with the diagram through poetics, drawn to the collision between the ineffable and the calculable and what poetry is able to draw into being.

Zuberec is a poet living in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal.

Cover image by Maxmillien Brice. Image depicts the eight toroid magnets of the ATLAS detector at CERN. Source via