“Roll on, sad world! not Mercury or Mars”
By Frederick Goddard Tuckerman
from Sonnets, Second Series
Roll on, sad world! not Mercury or Mars
Could swifter speed, or slower, round the sun,
Than in this year of variance thou hast done
For me. Yet pain, fear, heart-break, woes, and wars
Have natural limit; from his dread eclipse
The swift sun hastens, and the night debars
The day, but to bring in the day more bright;
The flowers renew their odorous fellowships;
The moon runs round and round; the slow earth dips,
True to her poise, and lifts; the planet-stars
Roll and return from circle to ellipse;
The day is dull and soft, the eave-trough drips;
And yet I know the splendor of the light
Will break anon: look! where the gray is white!
Seeing the Eclipse in Maine
By Robert Bly
It started about noon. On top of Mount Batte,
We were all exclaiming. Someone had a cardboard
And a pin, and we all cried out when the sun
Appeared in tiny form on the notebook cover.
It was hard to believe. The high school teacher
We’d met called it a pinhole camera,
People in the Renaissance loved to do that.
And when the moon had passed partly through
We saw on a rock underneath a fir tree,
Dozens of crescents—made the same way—
Thousands! Even our straw hats produced
A few as we moved them over the bare granite.
We shared chocolate, and one man from Maine
Told a joke. Suns were everywhere—at our feet.
By John Frederick Nims
Mildest of all the powers of earth: no lightnings
For her—maniacal in the clouds. No need for
Signs with their skull and crossbones, chain-link gates:
Danger! Keep Out! High Gravity! she’s friendlier.
Won’t nurse—unlike the magnetic powers—repugnance;
Would reconcile, draw close: her passion’s love.
No terrors lurking in her depths, like those
Bound in that buzzing strongbox of the atom,
Terrors that, lossened, turn the hills vesuvian,
Trace in cremation where the cities were.
No, she’s our quiet mother, sensible.
But therefore down-to-earth, not suffering
Fools who play fast and loose among the mountains,
Who fly in her face, or, drunken, clown on cornices.
She taught our ways of walking. Her affection
Adjusted the morning grass, the sands of summer
Until our soles fit snug in each, walk easy.
Holding her hand, we’re safe. Should that hand fail,
The atmosphere we breathe would turn hysterical,
Hiss with tornadoes, spinning us from earth
Into the cold unbreathable desolations.
Yet there—in fields of space—is where she shines,
Ring-mistress of the circus of the stars,
Their prancing carousels, their ferris wheels
Lit brilliant in celebration. Thanks to her
All’s gala in the galaxy.
Down here she
Walks us just right, not like the jokey moon
Burlesquing our human stride to kangaroo hops;
Not like vast planets, whose unbearable mass
Would crush us in a bear hug to their surface
And into the surface, flattened. No: deals fairly.
Makes happy each with each: the willow bend
Just so, the acrobat land true, the keystone
Nestle in place for bridge and for cathedral.
Let us pick up—or mostly—what we need:
Rake, bucket, stone to build with, logs for warmth,
The fallen fruit, the fallen child . . . ourselves.
Instructs us too in honesty: our jointed
Limbs move awry and crisscross, gawky, thwart;
She’s all directness and makes that a grace,
All downright passion for the core of things,
For rectitude, the very ground of being:
Those eyes are leveled where the heart is set.
See, on the tennis court this August day:
How, beyond human error, she’s the one
Whose will the bright balls cherish and obey
—As if in love. She’s tireless in her courtesies
To even the klutz (knees, elbows all a-tangle),
Allowing his poky serve Euclidean whimsies,
The looniest lob its joy: serene parabolas.
Man in Space
By Billy Collins
All you have to do is listen to the way a man
sometimes talks to his wife at a table of people
and notice how intent he is on making his point
even though her lower lip is beginning to quiver,
and you will know why the women in science
fiction movies who inhabit a planet of their own
are not pictured making a salad or reading a magazine
when the men from earth arrive in their rocket,
why they are always standing in a semicircle
with their arms folded, their bare legs set apart,
their breasts protected by hard metal disks.
By Katharine Coles
You are smaller than I remember
And so is the house, set downhill
Afloat in a sea of scrub oak. From up here
It’s an ordinary box with gravel
Spread over its lid, weighting it, but
Inside it’s full of shadows and sky.
Clouds pull themselves over dry
Grass, which, if I’m not mistaken, will erupt
Any minute in flame. Only
A spark, a sunbeam focused. From up
Here, enjoying the view, I can finally
Take you in. Will you wave back? I keep
Slingshotting around. There’s gravity
For you, but all I ever wanted was to fly
Despina, Moon of Neptune
By Christine Klocek-Lim
She said she’d rather sing alone
than perform for some random guy,
but then Voyager 2 flew by,
eyes trained on her curved form
like a desperate man (the kind
whose lady walked away forever).
He just didn’t know when to look aside.
She said she tried to hide, quiet her light
against her father’s blue sky, but the lens
found her four times. She gave up
silence for fame, gave up space
and time, until the sun finally fell
down across the steely horizon.
Her father Neptune didn’t seem to care
and that was what hurt her most.
The galaxy beyond everything she knew
was so much less infinite than she’d hoped.
The camera took what he wanted
and left. Despina endured the scrutiny
of a thousand careless eyes—
In the end, she would only wear white,
the color of purity, and not even the dark
could get her to sing anymore.