Neutrinos, they are very small.“Cosmic Gall”, from Telephone Poles and Other Poems, John Updike, Knopf, 1960.
They have no charge and have no mass
And do not interact at all.
The earth is just a silly ball
To them, through which they simply pass,
Like dustmaids through a drafty hall
Or photons through a sheet of glass.
They snub the most exquisite gas,
Ignore the most substantial wall,
Cold-shoulder steel and sounding brass,
Insult the stallion in his stall,
And scorning barriers of class,
Infiltrate you and me! Like tall
And painless guillotines, they fall
Down through our heads into the grass.
At night, they enter at Nepal
And pierce the lover and his lass
From underneath the bed---you call
It wonderful; I call it crass.
For me, it's the comparison to “photons through a sheet of glass” that really sells the poem. (This may be more of a physicist's than a literary critic's remark, but bear with me.) Neutrinos' behaviour --- almost never interacting --- seems unaccountably strange, but suddenly the reference to light jolts you as you think, hang on, I already know that light goes straight through glass, which is also solid, and come to think of it that is peculiar too. It's a remarkable effect: neutrinos suddenly become more accountable, and an everyday phenomenon becomes more noteworthy and distinct.
OK, so in terms of his achievement as a writer, it's not up there with the four “Rabbit” novels. But when it comes to making particle physics accessible, I'll take all the help I can get.