The Thermodynamics of Comfort and Other Poems

June 7, 2021

The Thermodynamics of Comfort and Other Poems

By Deanna MacNeil

The Thermodynamics of Comfort

There is an alley across the way
that leads directly into the afternoon sun.
Sometimes I will walk it
straight as far as it will take me
in search of the comfort that accompanies the agreement
between the laws of the universe and me.

A pancake direct from the pan
or the heaping pile of clean laundry
fresh from the drier
fulfills the accord.

The way the beach sand
goes from scalding to toasty
as the sun is setting.
Solace amplified
by the orange-pinks of the sky
reflected in the waves.

A cat that graces
a lap with its purring.
A dog tired of the party,
fast asleep atop feet.

The bath drawn to just the right temperature
is a short reciprocation.
So too, the snuggle of the dreamer, deep into the sleeping bag
sure to wake scorching.

How does something ordinary
cocooned in thermal exchanges
become bliss?
Maybe it is the assured reliability
that warmth to spare will be shared
with anything or anyone in need.
the constant cycle of energy guaranteed,
governed by no one and received by all.

* * *


Uncertainty anchors our fear of change,
the sudden awareness of unforeseen circumstances.
We have seen the circumstances.
We have survived them
but many haven’t.
Now we are here again. Again.
The weariness of again has settled.
The adrenaline of new has faded.
This weariness comes with familiarity,
a blanket of new normal, weighted
not for comfort but for exhaustion.

Grief drips from every anniversary.
Each day forward now, another year has passed.
Forward, we’re told to hurry despite ourselves,
back to work and back to consuming.
Hurry into a future where the new normal weighs as much as the old, if not more.
As if we could rush out of an ocean
before the next wave breaks
arduous, slow-motion, imminent.
Undeniably, time crashes into us
while we fight the undertow
and resurface, dripping.

A planet, exhaustedly gaslit,
determined to believe there is no more to lose.
We can do better than this
but will we?
We’ve seen the benefit of slowing, however briefly.

A rest dearly needed
for the Earth as much as for the life on it.
Instead we’re told each new wave is inevitable
for the sake of the economy, for the sake of the status quo.
As inevitable as the warming. As inevitable as the lives lost.

There is a dread in continuing this trudge
through not-so-quicksand
inevitably immobile, scared and so
so tired.
After all, the risk of quicksand is not the sand,
but being stuck,
prevented from escaping the inevitable returning tide.
Is another year around the sun too fast or like clockwork?
If you have ever watched the tide, you would know
it’s both.

Deanna MacNeil is a medical writer based in Montreal, Canada. They received their PhD in 2020 from McGill University. Deanna is a budding science communicator and poet, and a member of the Massive Science Consortium.

Artwork by Sam Davies