Particle Collider Physicist Suffers Head Trauma//Jonathan Travelstead

Deplaning, my legs buckle on the airstair & I crumple,

each thud of my skull against aluminum treadplate

juddering sigmas & binary into a Greco-Arabic mess on the tarmac.


Passengers streaming by don’t know what to make of it.

Fuel vapors. My mind, shimmery as the fiery curtain

pierced by a silver wire leading to a fingerprint


on the other side, glyphed in gold.






I’m in a fever, or it’s the night of the Millennium

& I’m eating mushrooms bruised purple beneath the gills,

bitter as walnut. I’m getting smaller until I’m five years old,


lying on my back where everything looks like Christmas

beneath a snow-dusted sugar maple tree who waits,

patient, to dress me in Sunday stars.






Where am I? I don’t know what day this is I’m tracing braille

from contrails of dragons. Pinching fuselages

of 757s to specks while car mechanics check the invoice


at my bed’s foot. No. Hospital chart. I taste fine,

I can’t say. Neither can I say We’ve found the God Particle.

We’ve found the pullstring, & the grotto’s lowest levels



where the children hide. I can’t tell them I’m unstuck

in time & space. I can’t tell them I’m the Maid of Orleans

whose skull burst with the tintinnabula of bells


at hearing the Holy Word.






Lord of Revealment, I’ve heard the first pings.

I’ve seen the guy wires strain. Lord God of fifty-thousand-watt

radio towers slinging our lamentations into space,


I weep at the tension of sunflower petals, unfurling.

Engineer, whose foil birds heal me with every flyover’s shadowed

wing. I weep at the compression of tear ducts,


the compassion of electricity. From my back

on this tarmac, I weep as spinal fluid haloes my head

as a medic once told me haloes any pool of blood.


At the physics of flight & the magic of human fucking bodies

hurdling oceans in the time it takes reading the NY Times.

At what dire sorcery departs us with each understanding


science brings. At divisible gods just coming into focus.

At looking up after looking down for so long,

& looking back again. At what arguments retire


to the leaves & grass.

Jonathan Travelstead served in the Air Force National Guard for six years as a firefighter and currently works as a full-time firefighter for the city of Murphysboro, and is poetry co-editor for Cobalt Review. He received his MFA from Southern Illinois University of Carbondale. His first collection How We Bury Our Dead (Cobalt Press) was released in 2015, Conflict Tours (Cobalt Press) in 2017.