On April 10th, 1901, an experiment was conducted in Dorchester, Massachusetts by Dr. Duncan MacDougall who sought to prove that the human soul had mass.


The experiment was conducted on six dying patients who were placed on specially made scales just prior to their deaths. Once the patients died, an interesting thing occurred. Immediately after death an average of three-fourths of an ounce was lost by each patient. Because everything had been accounted for, from the air in the lungs to the patient’s bodily fluids, Dr. MacDougall concluded that the human soul weighs 21 grams.


What carries significant weight within us is both a scientific and a psychological consideration.


What does the quality of being heavy imply?


Are we speaking of weight in terms of the body's relative mass and the quantity of matter it contains, the weight of the human soul, the heaviness of the lessons we carry, or the heaviness of a thing in terms of the importance we attach to it and its ability to influence and ultimately transform us?


Is experience “heavy”? What do we gain when we interact with one another? Does sexual interaction weigh more heavily upon us than platonic interaction? What do we lose?


Randall Collins, an American sociologist who has written on the subject of human sexuality and interaction for decades, believes that an understanding of human sexuality depends upon social context. Essentially, Collins argues that we cannot survive alone and that meaning essential to our survival emerges through connection. Sexual pleasure, then, is a social construct, a ritual, an exchange of energies.


This exchange is conveyed by the pairing of Kelly Nelson’s poem with Tim Staley’s artwork. In Staley’s image we encounter smoke, in gold and vibrant swirls, leaving the smokestacks.  When paired with Nelson’s opening lines, “she thinks Losing a little weight – or a lot -- during sex,” the interaction becomes suggestive of a long exhale, of energy leaving the body as if it were a chimney.


The poem also speaks to us of what is lost through interaction, which, like smoke, dissipates quickly. What do we lose when we engage with one another? What do we gain?


Welcome to Issue 14 of Petite Hound Press.

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POET Kelly Nelson is the author of Rivers I Don’t Live By, winner of the 2013 Concrete Wolf Chapbook Award. Her poetry has appeared in Sequestrum, Watershed Review, I-70 Review and elsewhere, and has been nominated for Best of the Net. She volunteers as a gallery docent and teaches Interdisciplinary Studies at Arizona State University. >> <<


ARTIST Tim Staley completed a Poetry MFA from New Mexico State University in 2004. His chapbooks are available for purchase at the Grandma Moses Press online store. Journal publications include Border Senses, Canary, Chiron Review, Circumference, Coe Review, RHINO, and Sin Fronteras. His hobbies include thinking, eating taquitos, and waiting.







H., J. (January 27, 2010).  The 21 grams theory. 
Historic Mysteries. Retrieved  



Shpancer, Noam. (April 16, 2012). Why do we have sex? Psychology Today.

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