Left-Handed Universe: Variations

posted Jan 13, 2009

As a child, my mother was ambidextrous. No traumatic stories or anything: she’d draw
with one hand, color with the other. Later this talent waned, went the way of the crayon.

I wanted very much to be left-handed. I could be a changeling, of course; the concept
explained a lot. I practiced my signature, its cramping line. The fingers of my right hand

What in our world might indicate the handedness of the universe? All those quarks:
left, right, strange. Everything leaning into a spin.

A woman I know married her husband because he moved like Cary Grant. And all
us poor stumblers with L and R scrawled on the toes of our shoes, just trying to dance.

Different drummer, said my piano teacher, and perhaps it’s best....

Fundamental symmetries: (a) For every particle there must be an equivalent antiparticle
with opposite charge. (b) Parity: Left-handed universe should be equal
to right-handed universe. (c) If particles are interchanged with anti-particles and
left-handed is flipped with right-handed, universe should look identical.

The wind comes off the ocean, sweeps the city toward the bay. In mid-September,
though, the winds reverse; even the street signs lean west. A few weeks each fall,
we drift downhill, forget bus passes and directions. End up where we started.

Left-handed, right-handed, saddle-shaped, expanding. Extending the wrong hand,
one more time.

After working as an arts magazine publisher, gift wrapper, film studio gofer, and cocktail

waitress, Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet now makes her living as a freelance editor. Her book Tulips, Water, Ash was selected for the 2009 Morse Prize and will be published in October by University Press of New England. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and son.

Stonestreet’s poem “Once Upon a Time” also appears in this issue.