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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 17: 29 Jan. 2023
Poem: 712 words
By Lori Howe
(Cadralor #20)

An Incomplete List of All Exotic States of Matter*

—for Patrick
1. String-net Liquids* 

Fish fall naturally into formations when they swim, creating vortices 
that raft each other along, lifting buoyant. At New York University, 
Maurizio Porfiri builds a robot zebrafish to study them, watches, 
hovering above the tank, a florescent god, as the blue and yellow fish 
follow in its wake, the swirls tasting only slightly metallic: 
Porfiri watches, his cells twitching in formation,     the diamond 
      the phalanx      and his little robot fish a double for the one 
revolving inside him, a flash of sardines catching the light, a whiff 
of kelp bulbs      popping      in the sterile lab, and in that moment 
only the seamed coastline of his clothes holds his body in solid form. 

2. Quark-gluon Plasma* 

If we were mantis shrimp, we’d scarcely control our eyes, perched 
and swiveling wildly on our own stalks, seeing 12 spectra of color: 
4x as many colors exist as we can see. Oh, how we long to name them. 
Did you know that humans are bioluminescent, that we glow 
as we walk through the fog and turmoil of our days? Only poor 
eyesight blinds us to the warmth and light we emit, lit like angels. 
This is true, my love. If we could step inside the bodies of ostracods, 
those gigantocypris that dwell in the deep cold of the sea, far beyond 
the reach of light, the concave mirrors in our eyes would reveal us 
as glorious creatures illuminated by treasures beneath our skin. 

3. Superfluidity* 

1904, Astor Hotel: In this daguerreotype of exotic palms and women 
in white gowns, men in black waistcoats and bowties turn to the camera, 
smiling beneath walrus mustaches, glasses raised. Oh, the table goes on 
so far into the unknown, its parallel sides come together. Beside me, 
a man dozes, pince nez askew; beside you, a woman feeds a monkey: 
mercury vapor and salt set the image just as it bites her, those small, 
sharp teeth. See us, just there: the turn of your mouth, my blush. 
You decline Astor’s invitation to board his new ocean liner, dining 
in my quiet rooms as darkness rises, buoyant as salt water, filling 
Central Park, flowing up the sides of buildings until we can taste it. 

4. Rydberg Polaron* 

Unfurling trumpets lined in neon raspberry and lime, stentors 
are protozoan blue whales, tiny giants who carry blue-green algae 
within them, offer them life in exchange for life, bits of modern art 
regenerating whole cells in perfect geometry. Animals evolve the gift 
of resurrection from unicellular ancestors, but humans, no; not us. 
1853, New Year’s Eve: dinner inside a life-size replica of Iguanodon, 
21 men in its belly dining on hare and cod with oyster sauce, 
golden meringues and jellied fruit, pocket watches glinting, champagne 
coupes lining the table in a string of pearls as though they, too, 
could reconstruct themselves as giants of their own shining world. 

5. Supercritical Fluidity* 

In this village named for the goddess Minerva, her stones and clay 
glow golden in blue afternoon light. Birdsong follows our footsteps 
through Roman arches, caressing ankles like a cat. A scented corner, 
the open door of a patisserie, religieuse and coffee, webbed 
voices floating out. Who built these walls, these streets? Their hands 
linger, smooth with touch. Plasma matters nothing  to an olive tree 
who’s lived a thousand years. Heat is energy between bodies, 
and here, where beauty and ache fall from windows like baskets 
waiting to be filled, the state of being human is a hungry mouth, 
and the most common state of everything is emptiness + desire. 



*Author’s Notes:

Exotic states of matter differ from classical states of matter in that, under unusual conditions, they defy the behavior typically associated with classical states of matter:

  1. String-net Liquids: in this state, atoms are unstable, like liquids, but consistent in pattern, like solids.

  2. Quark-gluon Plasma: in this phase, quarks become able to move independently in an ocean of gluons.

  3. Superfluidity: cryogenic liquids may flow up the side of a container and down the outside.

  4. Rydberg Polaron: a state in which atoms can exist inside of atoms.

  5. Supercritical Fluidity: a state in which, at sufficient temperature and pressure, the distinction between liquid and gas disappears.



Publisher’s Notes:

The links below were retrieved on 5 January 2023.

1. To learn more about Maurizio Porfiri’s work, see the press release by New York University (7 February 2018): “The Robots Will See You Now: NYU Tandon Researchers Publish First Experiments of Robotic Fish that Can See and Mimic Live Fish”: https://engineering.nyu.edu/news/robots-will-see-you-now

2. The New Year’s Eve repast in a replica of Iguanodon is described in “Dinner in a Dinosaur” by David B. Williams in Earth: The Science Behind the Headlines (20 June 2016), published by American Geoscience Institute:

For additional photographs and details, see “The Victorian dinner inside a dinosaur” at The History Press (author and date of publication unspecified):

Lori Howe
Issue 17 (29 January 2023)

is a co-creator of the new poetic form, the cadralor [plural: cadralore], and Editor in Chief of its flagship journal, Gleam. Her work appears in such journals as The Meadow, The Tampa Review, Sandstorm, Verse-Virtual, Synkroniciti, and MacQueen’s Quinterly. She is also the author of Cloudshade: Poems of the High Plains and Voices at Twilight (Sastrugi Press, 2015 and 2016 respectively) and the editor of Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone: An Anthology of Wyoming Writers (Sastrugi Press, 2016).

Ms. Howe lives and writes in Laramie, Wyoming, where she is a professor in the Honors College at the University of Wyoming, and mother to a feral cat named Miss Kitty Pants.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Magnetoreception, a cadralor by Lori Howe in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 13, May 2022), nominated by MacQ for a Pushcart Prize

Refraction and Ripening, two cadralore by Lori Howe in MacQ (Issue 6, January 2021)

New Poetic Form With Wyoming Roots Goes Viral by Micah Schweizer at Wyoming Public Media (4 December 2020); includes audio of Lori Howe reading her cadralore (Numbers 9, 5, and 4)

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