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How Many Drops?
By Mark McGuire-Schwartz

for my father

How many drops of water
does it take to fill
Wanaque Reservoir? I bet you always
wanted to know. We can figure it out.
Let's say it is fifteen miles in length.
Later we can use the odometer to check.
Or a map. Now we'll project the width at one mile.
We assume, of course, a rectangle. By cutting
and re-assembling jagged edges, that is probably
pretty close. Most things irregular hide
a core of regularity underneath. We can guess
the depth. Again, we take an average, and soon
the volume is in our grasp. Length
times width times depth. Smoothing irregularities.
More or less.

Now for the drop of water -- that is easy.
We do not have to calculate that.
Already ours. I know its size.
Experiments have been conducted -- some
by me -- for a secret government project, to determine
the size of a water drop. Also its weight,
But that does not count here. And its shape,
Of course. Its content and luster are also known.
But, for our purpose, just the size. How many fit in a teaspoon? And then into a cup?
And convert -- yes, convert -- to cubic inches, and voila,
we are almost done. Soon you will have the answer that you seek. Six hundred billion,
seven hundred and fifty-eight million,
nine hundred and thirty thousand,
six hundred and forty-five. Point seven eight nine, but we'll just round it
to point seven nine. Two decimal places should be enough.
And there's your answer. Give or take
half a dozen. You have solved for X.
Depending, of course, on recent snow.

But tell me again about the water.
About the luster, about the sheen.
Can you see yourself reflected in each drop?
Or does that require an aggregate? If so
Can we calculate for that? And should we
Compensate for the displacement of fish? Or must
We remove the fish before calculating the depth?
And if Archimedes runs naked through the streets,
Will he find love? And will that love
Be purified and reflected and true?
Do the drops crystallize to predict our fate?
Is the density equal to that of our common blood?
When we solve for X, do we turn back time
And bring our future to meet our former
Past? How many deaths can one heart hold?

How many? You'd be surprised,
But first you must calculate their weight.
Not all deaths weigh the same, you know.
The heart can hold thousands of the tiny, and hundreds
Of the small, dozens of the medium weight.
But heavy deaths add up fast. In fact,
Some are supernovas. These cannot
Be held in one heart for any time at all.
These deaths act as quantum particles, and bounce
From ring to ring without ever existing in the space between.
How many deaths can a heart hold? First,
We must measure the weight.

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Document last modified on: 09/25/2005

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