Friday, April 22, 2022

Equilibrium’s a Myth

The first equatorial aurora
Was just an astonishment. What was that?
What could generate an aurora there,

Far from the poles? Scientists set to work,
Renewing their acquaintance with the sun,
But it seemed to be behaving itself,

And historical records were no help.
As more auroras occurred, they became
Subjects of intense study in themselves.

They spread in ever more serene colors
Over wider, longer, and more frequent
Bands of equatorial night. The sky

From dusk to dawn became a show that drowned
Out the signals of all the satellites,
All the radio and cellphone towers.

Undersea and underground cables turned
Out the last reliable conduits
Of data around the Earth’s waist each night.

They were geomagnetic storms, alright,
But no one could figure out how they worked.
Then they began to introduce seasons

In parts of the world that hadn’t known them.
When the hemispheres were in equinox,
The equatorial nights grew so bright

And their iridescent interference
So dense that everyone in those regions
Lived as isolated insomniacs,

While at both solstices, the lights eased up,
And it was possible to carry on
A more familiar, traditional life.

It wasn’t long before there were pilgrims,
Especially to tropical islands
And equatorial mountain ranges,

Mauna Kea, the Mountains of the Moon,
And the like, people who would sequester
Themselves throughout the season of the lights,

Hauling up months of supplies, preparing
To sleep in only daylight, to stay up
Through the magnetic storms, dazzled each night.

Many of the pilgrims died, which only
Encouraged stories, romantic accounts,
Of loneliness, madness, and survival,

Which in turn resulted in more tourists
In the tolerable months and more young
Dreamers to come for the enlightenment.

Religions and monasteries were built
Under equatorial auroras,
But no one noticed how they were changing

Even people and other species far
Removed from the endlessly glowing nights.
People in rural temperate zones grew

Insomniac as well, congregating
Even under uniform, cloud-pearled skies
In hopes of a sign that would tell them why.

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