TESS

TESS

(Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite)

 

She set aloft smooth on her slim white rocket

into the blue air above the sea,

the shape of fire around her like wings.

Her great voice diminished as she rose.

An angel made from bits of Earth,

sent out because we cannot bear,

in all the heavens, to be alone.

April Prompts # 11: A FAN LETTER

APRIL PROMPT #11

Janet’s #1:  a fan letter to someone living

 

I’M YOUR BIGGEST FAN

 

They filled you with poison;

you made yourself wings.

 

They cut you open;

you took to the sky.

 

Is there anything you can’t fix?

Anything you haven’t lived?

 

Like no one else,

you keep your balance.

 

Watching the stars,

walking the mountain,

 

always knowing where you are.

April Prompt #9: MY SECRET NAME

APRIL PROMPTS #9

David #4:  Your secret name, or real name, or secret identity

 

WHO AM I NOW

 

It has to do with the birds who come to the feeder

outside my study window every morning and the birds

who meet me in the forest and feed from my hand.

And the water that drips from the eaves

and the water that flows in the channel

under the log bridge between the low banks

on the east side of the garden.  The old oak tree

and her squirrel- planted children.

All the different mosses on tree trunks and stones

with their lancelet or oval or hairlike leaves

and the small insects living between their branches.

Opossum tracks and bobcat tracks and fox tracks

and coyote tracks and crow tracks and turkey tracks

and the tracks of the stray cat around the garage.

The way clouds dissipate or grow. Planets

wandering along the ecliptic. The nebula

in Orion, and the star cluster in Hercules

and the stories about Orion and Hercules

and Persephone and Artemis and One-Eye

Two-Eyes and Three-Eyes and Briar Rose.

The stories about Elijah and Jesus. Stories

about my grandmother, my father, neighbors.

The people I overhear in berry patches

and on the street. My husband and son.

My friends. And you, too. Definitely you.

FIGURE AND GROUND

 

 

VENUS 2

 

 

FIGURE AND GROUND

She is a shadow on the grass. She

is a shadow cast by a star so plain

it bears a simple name. She is a figure

on a ground so vast that even she

can not see herself. Mosses grow under

the grasses. Stars behind the sun. Shadows

follow on, between the eastern mountains

and the field all green and yellow. And each

pebble burns its shadow, and each broken

sparrow on the road’s cold shoulder. And why

would anyone be afraid to die

against this curve of space, this ground of time?

Her breath streams a shadow through still airs.

Passing planets pull dark shadows from their stars.

ORTHDOX SOPHROSYNE

I shall discard their major preservation,
All that they know so long as no one asks.

~W.H. Auden, For the Time Being

Men left a golf ball on the moon–
litter on her pocked and dusty face.
Betelgeuse could hold a billion Earths
and still have room.  The poet David
considered the Heavens and stood
amazed at the dome of stars,
home of angels and gods,
amazed that humans matter.

Dark matter weighs
more than what we know.
Dark energy holds
the whole thing in.
What’s so odd about
a multitude of gods?

O, Pluto and Persephone!
Chernobog, Grandmother of Beetles!

Under the Earth the shades of the dead,
root, and worm, fire and stone.
Here on the skin, trees and wind.
Up in the Heavens, a billion billion stars.

Jupiter, Venus, way up there–
Thor and Nanook, hear my prayer.

What does it mean to love?
Out here in the dark does it matter?  Hell,
give me chocolate cake and cheap gasoline.
I want a telescope of my own.
I want someone to remember my childhood name.
I want a raven to come when I call.
I want a grandchild before I die.

O, Spider Woman, Shiva, Grandpa Oak Tree,
Brigid, Loki, Ab Kin Zoc,

What do you want from me?

I’ll offer sacrifice:
burn my mother’s letters,
give away all coats but one.
I’ll bury my journals and earrings
and smash the teacups on the walk.
Already I feed wild birds
and remember the birthdays of my friends.
I’m thinking of reading to the blind.

Will that make a difference?
Green Tara?  Mother of Trolls?
Odin?   Pan?  Epimetheus?
Jesus, lover of our souls?

I can’t count to one billion.
An acre of cattails makes a trillion seeds.
I can’t define humankind.
A gorilla is learning to play the flute.

Vesta, Durga, Horus, Kuan Ti,
Eostre,  Manito, Mary, Loki,
Twinkle, twinkle, Brother Star,
can you tell me what we are?

Bowerbirds build beautiful houses;
Ichneumonid wasps change spider’s brains.
Rebirth?  A piece of cake.
Gods.  Elves.  Spirits of the dead.
My body recomposed,
my neighbor as myself.

Betelgeuse is getting ready to go.
Four billion years and our Sun goes, too,
out to where the dead suns go–
with our houseplants and graves, letters, spoons and blogs.
Nothing but ashes and a million broken gods.

Everything matters.
I think I have to love you all.

THE SURFACE OF LAST SCATTERING

 

As for the beginning,
you will be forever blind.
The first light will never reach you,
the speed too great,
and you too far away.
You will sooner comprehend
the minds of stones,
the music in the hearts of suns.

Do you even remember, do you
understand your dreams?
There was a white-robed,
hooded figure in your garden,
a dead rabbit who came to life
and hid beneath your bed,
a silver cup that held the deep-red
souls of all your friends.

My father’s last words
the night that you were born–
He did not speak
of the night I was conceived.
Before my sister died, she said
how good of them to come–
My great-aunt as she departed sang
universe revealed—

Nothing beyond the primal opacity,
that background of heavy light.
Ending beyond time–
every stellar furnace out,
each black hole dissipated, every
molecule of breath accounted.
Oh, universe.
Revealed.

THE TRANSIT OF VENUS

One black calf came, curious, to the fence,
the rest grazed slowly through the field.
People drove by.
Nobody stopped.

The clouds
in the west parted just in time.
We fitted binoculars with heavy filters
and there she was.
Our size.

Turning with us
around that close yellow star.
Dark against that star.
For months she’d been yellow
against the darkening sky.

We won’t live
to see this again.  And will anyone
ever see us like this–
one black spot, turning through the sky,
just above the clouds closing in.

GETTING SERIOUS

Coyotes are gathering acorns
to plant in the forest.  One day
there will be enough.  Even now,
the ancient acorn-eating peoples
curled in their river-gravel mounds
are arising and tuning their drums.

Red squirrels are growing opposable
thumbs and tails like monkeys.
Soon they will be able
to open any door;
they will wield paintbrushes and spoons.
Soon they will be able to sing.

Bears awaken early, craving beef and beer.
Elephants are learning to dig tunnels.
Dark Matter is gathering,
incomprehensible, into a god of infinite
dimension.  All the stars are opening
their pointed mouths.

Is this so strange?
Once there was a spirit
in every tree.  Once
all the animals could speak.
And you, stubby primate,
secure in illusions of grace,

is there anything you really understand?
Your brain extends through the soles
of your feet and beyond
the thickness of your skull.
It mingles with the shards
scattering into cosmic curves.

It’s time to get serious:
Take for example, this universe–
moving faster, heaven knows why.
Evolution goes on, outside your blindfold.
And take consciousness, that old homunculus,
that ancient soul that no one’s ever found.

DANCING ON

Orion is hunting woodcocks by the light of the moon.
He’s heading under for the summer;
soon he’ll rise at dawn, then at noon.
He’ll stalk only daytime prey, for awhile:
the hot sidewalk pigeons, sparrows,
dogs panting on steaming lawns.

The woodcock peents his pitiful twilight call,
nods his heavy head, whistles his wings,
chirps and spirals, falls like a shooting star.
Somewhere on the meadow edge his lady watches.
Once while he was dancing in the sky
I slogged through soggy mosquito ground
to see him bobbing in the last light, close enough to touch.

Tonight I sat with poets in a bookstore.
Together we chased our quarry around the rim,
tuned our hearts for all to hear.
One black-eyed boy took a fistful of poems from his wallet,
twittered his longing for a golden girl.
We old poets know our places in the quadrille,
but the floor slips away beneath our feet,
the orchestra shifts like seasons,
the music will never repeat.
Even in the silences between
there are voices in the street, under the lamps.
We can never know where the fire will descend;
when, precisely, the stars will come to ground.

This was a runner-up for the Grolier Poetry Prize (now the Ellen LaForge Prize) in 2001.  It’s interesting to me how the word “twitter” has changed since then.