21 grams

Sally Davis (Southsea, UK)

Helen Ivory: Written partly in the language of a formal scientific study, using the prior proven theory that the body is 21 grams lighter after death – a conclusion being that this is the weight of the soul. The poem then goes on to show a further experiment into the quality of the soul. I loved the language of this poem, and how it talks of the intangible and metaphysical in empirical terms.


21 grams


Having ascertained that a body gives up three-fourths of an ounce on death,

and concluded that this loss is due to the mass of the departing soul,

the author sets about determining the indivisible elements within its natural constitution:


He collects several souls with a small galvanic apparatus connected to an evacuated bell jar.

Observes a reflective substance, unaffected by the application of light.

A white mouse, introduced to the apparatus, survives for hours, untroubled.


The soul is not metallic, demonstrated by a failure to combine with dephlogisticated air

to form a calx, nor displaying a willingness to be reduced by acid. Thus, he concludes

that there exists an irreducible soul-ness of which the substance is composed.


He calls it love. He searches with a microscope for God’s fingerprints, and finds only his own.

He injects a sample into a dissected heart, watches it begin to beat. He surmises:

that final breath, when there is nothing left to cling to and nothing held back,


is a gift.








poem © Sally Davis