A Hymn by Frank Lawlor

This is a poem written by Frank Lawlor, retired, emeritus professor of biology and former priest from Brooklyn.  Frank is a social activist focused on racial justice and lives near the Chesapeake Bay where his skill as a sailor is redisplayed every spring.  I present it here as a post, but it can also be found by clicking on “Frank Lawlor’s page” on the sidebar to the right where you can make comments and replies to Frank directly. 


The following hymn is a saga


In a new way,

An ancient story:

One told by:

Celts and

Babylonians and

Inuit and

Hebrews and

All peoples and tribes ….

Of how matter,




From pure energy.

How it persisted,


Into complexity.

Always insisting

on its own survival.

Until Becoming …..



And, now the new song:


In the beginning,

there was ONE.

Before it,  ONE.


ONE only …

No   time.

NO.   before or after

NO     change.

NO      other.


All that is.



NO “how long”

NO    “where”

NO      “how big”

NO        “how small”

NO          “parts”




Then –

change …..

a many,

time begins,

space begins,

where begins,

size begins …….

A beginning ……

All things begin …….

The first instant …….


The Big Bang!


The Big Birth!


Of ……. Every-thing!

Of …….  Of the mother of all the matter/energy that will ever exist

Of …….    Of all that matters!


From a center,  the only and newborn location


Outward …… always every-where

Always every-thing


All that is, all that will ever be,  explodes outward.



an expanding bubble of

radiating energy,

photons to scatter light into the void

Quarks and

muons and


the stuff

of all reality,

of all that will ever be.

Not,  at first

is there an atom

of this metal or

of that gas –


no thing

In this new every-where

no atoms.

But, yet to be….

Too hot!

Molecules are far off

Yet to be …

in the cooler future,

long after still impossible atoms.

It is all,

all of all that which is,

or will ever be …

a seething globe of energy

Inconceivable heat,

temperature beyond anything


in our now,





Seen nowhere before

but then,

And now,

For the last

Thirteen billion earth years,

everywhere and




How long till this explosion

reached the size

of a winking mote of dust in a sunbeam?

Long …..

in what measure of time?

In our seconds or

billionths of one?

Or, in what might seem,

if we could be engulfed in such an event,

As a millennium?

A thousand millennia?

Could there even be

a measure of size or

of time?


When the expanding bubble

of all that exists,

Not yet a thing,

An energy.

reaches the size of a grape

That is,

The size of a grape in our universe ….

That grape is all of space,

the size of the only universe

Open now to our instruments.

Outside of which

there is nothing!

Imagination stumbles,


falls short of reality.




can be measured

in terms

of cooler temperature

But unbelievably

hot in terms

of our conception

of cool ….



primitive atoms


as binders of energy,

coalesce as


with orbiting electron fields.


Now there is stuff,


We call this proto-matter

Hydrogen: one elusive electron,


a single proton



The elementary

building block

of everything

that will ever be.

Massive amounts

of this simplest

of all stuff and

still within

the expanding,

The cooling

Primal explosion.


And then ….

Bits of

its daughter helium,

two electrons,

two protons …..

a beginning of complexity.


Now there is matter,  something.

Born of chaos,  born of pure energy,

Itself a compact

Persisting thing,

As matter

is doomed to do

as a

concentrate of energy.



Hot,hot, hot

even the ONE

that is

all of existence,

Do one thing –


balloon outward

from a center

At unimaginable

speed …

Cooling as

it takes up

more space

As space itself

is thus created!


This “it” is


a plasma,

from light

to radiation.

And, and,


a vast bubble

of hydrogen,

the stuff of

all future stuff.

Each hurtling

ultra microscopic

bit of matter

Whose mass is

the smallest of all stuff,



the core of

all of

the big stuff

Non-the-less, it has


And it does its “thing”

It PERSISTS in existence!


Hydrogen atoms

scattered throughout


Have two properties –

Mass and


which determine

The future fate of

what will become


Our universe!


Each hurtling H atom,

because of its mass,

exerts a gravitational force.

Distorting its space.

It interacts

with other H atoms.

They attract

each other.

Hydrogen Matter

begins to clump

in space

Vast clouds

of H form.

Becoming dense.

Their momentum

causes rotation

Into many

giant spheres.

spiraling inward,


ever denser,

more compact,

hotter and hotter.

Then …




Stars are born

when the heat and density


the primitive atoms

in a nuclear

fusion reaction.

As H atoms


forming helium atoms.


hydrogen bomb!

Each fusion

releases vast

quantities of energy

Photons and

elementary radiations

burst outward from

the dense

Hydrogen/Helium sphere.

This is

A star at work!



The Big Bang,

the Big Birth

was not stingy.

Millions of stars,

billions of stars continue

even now to

burst into “life”!


Just as

the scattered Hydrogen

interacted gravitationally

Now the small and

The medium (like our sun) and

super massive stars


They form

enormous gravitationally interacting

clouds of stars.

As many billions of stars as earth

has grains of sand

On all its beaches.


Galaxies are born!


Billions of galaxies



in turn interact


The singularity

has become a universe.

Which evolves

as it has evolved

from scattered Hydrogen!


Each star,

each hydrogen bomb

is on the way

to birth helium.

As the H

is depleted

in the fusion reactions,

More complex fusions

begin to take place




atoms are formed.

Each subsequent fusion

releases energy

birthing heavier,

more complex atoms

As the star ages

it collapses

from its own density.

Gravity concentrates

the matter

raising the temperature.


Until finally …

The star dies

A spectacular death.

A Supernova

is born,

lighting up its whole Galaxy.


most importantly,


its vast store of matter


at unimaginable velocities.

This “little Big Bang”

Forms the rest

of the heavy atoms




uranium …..

All of these elements

Are now

Scattered out

into space.


in all of its

Hundred and more elementary forms,

is complete.


Matter …


but scattered

Speeding thru space

In isolated,



Now massive,

each atom

huge in comparison to

The ancestor

progenitor H

But the ancient

gravitational dance,


from the inspiration of

Gravity and momentum

Again begins…..



and there

In the vast reaches of space

Within the matrix

Of star systems

And galaxies


The heavy atoms,

Especially iron,

Speeding to nowhere

Distort space

And gather,

Coagulate into

Space rocks,



Grow planets

Accumulate into moons

Captured into star orbits

Here and there

By the millions


Solar systems are born!


And here,

Where we are,

A watery planet spins,

And orbits

A star itself birthing Helium

Therefore bathing the blue

Mass of rock and water

With its atomic shower,

With photons

The byproduct of its atomic fusion

Of H into He


Creative distruction,

And finally …..

providing the power

To generate something

Radically new,



And the dance,

Continues …

The self complexifying

Urge of matter

To survive by changing

By adapting

Defeating stasis

Which is death,

The fate of the unadapting,

The Unchanging

In a changing universe.


Life is change,



Life is matter challenging



But that is another



2 comments on “A Hymn by Frank Lawlor

  1. Harry MacVeigh says:

    This is a powerful tale of the formative history of our Universe in creative, powerful poetic form. Thank you.

    • tonyequale says:


      I will send this on to Frank. If you want to communicate with him directly, click on “Frank Lawlor’s Page” in the sidebar, The poem is there too. He has direct access to that page and can reply directly to your comment there. Thanks for your remarks.


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