Thursday, December 31, 2020

Mirific Verdigris Night

Wondrous, hypoxic, metastable cyclery
Of everything incredibly vast in our sight,

Whose colors we pick out by cupping our lenses,
Whose colors our small lives imagine into life—

Orpiment, woad, and bassinet pinks—nurseries,
We call them, of stars—we who feed from one dollop

Of egg-yolk fire—tell us what to make of our world,
Our teal bead of cells and selves, juxtaposed with all.

Bellini’s St Francis in Ecstasy could not
Look more awestruck than telescope photographers

Developing digital tapestries of night.
Each swirling island universe curling its arms

Of gaseous streamers, lavender-cum-umber arcs
We paint in words, bright, floral analogies,

Names for things we know—turtle, eagle, antennae,
Sunflower, rose. We don’t know. That’s why we look,

Why we name, why we paint, above all why we count.
Oh, come on, you have to marvel at the common

Ways our delirious photographers count light!
Nearby, about thirty million light years away,

About the size of our own galaxy, star streams
Extending one-hundred-eighty thousand light years . . .

Nearby! Now let’s project the next few billion years.
So that’s one miraculous thing night has taught us.

Scroll up from the moon through Cassini’s blurred snapshot,
Taken through the rings of Saturn, of two white dots,

And remind yourself in passing that those two dots
Reflect sunlight from the two rocks we’ve set foot on,

Out through the spray of stars on our galaxy’s arm
To the nearest dwarf galaxy ours is eating,

Out to the sprawling nurseries of dust and gas,
Out through the Hercules Cluster of Galaxies,

And then sailing through the Hubble’s Ultra Deep Field
View in which (you can be forgiven for being

Confused) the many splotches of billions of stars
Swim past like plankton surrounding a submarine.

What are we seeing? Where are we going with this
Deep-dyed vision of everything, too much at once?

Let us return to surfaces. Here we can ask
Questions fun to answer. Who is bad? Who loves God?

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