Are there as many strands of gossamer
as galaxies–stars and spiders
sifting through the sky?
All the yellow leaves of autumn,
finch feathers, the finite grains of sand,
mitochondria in every living cell,
cells in every soul–if souls have cells–
how shall we learn the number of them all?
SUPER NOVA 2011fe in M101
Small quick birds,
the great Gravel Beasts,*
our wary little forebears
flickered and lumbered and scampered
the day you broke and dimmed and died.
*Chalicotherium– “gravel beasts”–knuckle walkers, related to horses.
bringer of winter jollity,
how I envy your moons–
their dance, their colors,
the way they throw their tiny shadows
against your wild pale flank.
MARS & VENUS
He is silent.
With one orange eye he stares
across the ecliptic
at his sister
who is not a planet
but a hole in the firmament,
a clue to the brightness above the ceiling
with its thousand painted stars.
The old man looms and turns,
taking his time,
all the time in the sky.
Antares is the red heart of Scorpio.
We cannot see its color in the dark,
where even the War God’s bloody hue
is nothing more threatening than gold.
Lover of the Moon,
did the ancients who named you
know that under your belt
the stars are born?
One day your red shoulder
with the sun.
HERSCHEL’S GARNET STAR
At a quarry, in my youth,
I prised you from matrix,
tossed you into the sky.
I thought you were lost,
but here you are, Mu Cephei,
Erakis, right ear
of the somber Aethiopian king.
LUNA, IN ECLIPSE
Rolling we come,
trailing our shade.
Bell of silence,
ball of stone,
pocked with stone,
pale and silent
I was only fooling around
when I found you–
Groombridge did it
with a Transit Circle,
made especially for him.
Strange, how some stars
shine more beautifully than most,
how they call, compel.
Damn it, gone again.
Your head, yes, tonight
sleeps above Hercules,
but your tail is lost in light.
wake up and twitch.
You were always there
when I was a virgin
and the skies were always dark.
WHEN I HEARD THE LEARNED ASTRONOMER
~With no apology to Walt Whitman
When I heard the learned astronomer,
when the images from Hubble were set before me,
when I was shown the clustered birthing places of stars,
collisions of galaxies, death throes of red giants,
when I heard the astronomer rejoice in the enormity
of our ignorance–Dark Matter! Dark Energy!–
how soon accountable I felt awake and alive,
and later, I wandered home and stood with my telescope
in the mystical clear night air, feeling curious and small,
and looked and looked in perfect silence at the stars.