Archives for posts with tag: astronomy

Jose Camilo Lopez
Over Earth My Distant Fingerprint
by Craig Thompson

My hair feels so much better washed clean
after all that work, I probably stink less
with a good shower and the miracle of soap,
now the dogs will stop cozying up to me,
showing their bellies, rolling on the scent
of chicken and steer manure, compost, dirt
irresistible to the canine persuasion
licking my face, afternoon into evening.
I saw the International Space Station
after midnight, its wings caught the sun,
orbit skirted the atmosphere on gravity,
solar panels lit up, clipping along
in the dark sky crossing Orion’s belt
right fast between Rigel and Betelgeuse.

PHOTO: Stars in the night sky and trails of the International Space Station by Jose Camilo Lopez Perez.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In my freeform sonnets, I often balance pieces from different times and settings. Here, after a deep dive of winter gardening, I was swarmed by my dog, Bud, and his visiting best friend, Otto. They turned on another memory, when I saw the International Space Station one night. I worked on a project for Boeing that contributed to the ISS, and witnessing it in flight was as joyful as those two dogs. This is the lead off piece in A Singular Bestiary, a now 160-page sonnet sequence that is a novel of sorts, though interspersed with pieces, like this one, grounded in my life. Some of my work gets pretty dark, so I try to make sure there’s a balance.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Craig Thompson lives with spouse Ariel, feline Pixie, and Bud the Wonder Dog. Recently published poems are in Terror House, The Locust Review, Spread, and Pontoon Poetry. His artwork has appeared in Surreal Salon/The Baton Rouge Gallery and Mind Maze/Gallery 118. Craig has received Seattle’s prestigious Denny Award and other civic honors for the Jungle Project, a public safety and environmental program he’s led since 2005.

dreamstime photo
Of Hammers, Stars, and Memories
by Ken Gierke

Our work finished after adding
the final touch to the barn we’ve built
over the past week, a horse stall
for Lori’s Morgan, we wash for dinner.
Our bellies full, we place kindling
and split logs into the firepit
on the hillside below the house.

Daylight slowly fading, we sit before
the open fire and our gaze turns
to the horizon as twilight reveals
an expanse that darkens to reveal
the marvelous sight of the Milky Way.

We talk of work that’s done
and left to do as the moon rises
and the flames recede to leave
glowing embers that send sparks
skyward to remind us of the reward
for a day well spent.

Long after you are gone,
I look back on my many visits
to help make your home
such a welcoming place
and realize that every moment,
from swinging a hammer
to gazing at the night sky
as I talked with you beside the fire,
will stay with me forever.

PHOTO: Barn and Milky Way by Dreamstime.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: For many years, we traveled to my parents’ retirement home in Fillmore, New York, south of Buffalo, and on many of those weekends I helped my father with his many projects, from raising a ham radio antenna to building a pavilion for family gatherings to building the barn mentioned in this poem. That 70-mile trip was worth it every time, for the chance to maintain a close relationship over “long” distance with the two people who meant so much to me. Except for in the dead of winter, sitting beside an open fire was a part of every weekend visit.

Ken Gierke_bio photo_2022

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ken Gierke has lived in Missouri since 2012, when he moved from Western New York, where the Niagara River fostered a love for nature. He writes primarily in free verse and haiku, often inspired by hiking and kayaking, while his fondness for love poetry may be explained by the fact that he moved to Missouri to be with the woman he eventually married. His poetry has appeared as a micro-chapbook from Origami Poems Project, as well as in several print anthologies, including three from Vita Brevis Press and another edited by d. ellis phelps. He also has been featured online by Amethyst Review, Silver Birch Press, and the Ekphrastic Review. Visit him at

by Judy Kronenfeld

Pale gibbous rock,
craters and mountains almost
showing, blooming
into the blue wash of early evening,
as I leave the grocery, looking up.
And the black birds
flowing underneath,
scrolling and unscrolling—

“What are you gazing at?” someone on her way in asks,
expectation in her voice,
as if a planetary phenomenon
might be occurring.

“Just the Moon,” I say.
Our piece of stone, low
in the wide brush of sky,
claimable, familiar.
Strange. For a moment not
the Moon, silver disc
hammered to an adornment’s
thinness, but simply a moon
in its 3D rockiness—
as if I were looking out
at a barren body, spun
off a spiraling exoplanet
over some primordial horizon.

Yet, how soon, unhesitating,
evening sinks down,
with slow, accustomed graciousness,
as I drive home. It’s almost dark
as I carry my bread, cheese
and apples tenderly from the car.
The mica-flake moon fixed
above my chimney begins its glittering.

What an unearned sense
of completion as I unlock my door—
as if I’d been out for hours
in the perturbations of the air,
as if I’d helped steer the blazing sun
to its hiding place in the sea.

Originally published in Avatar Review 19 (2017).

PAINTING: Autumn Grasses in Moonlight by Shibata Zeshin (1872).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Terrestrial” was written a few years back, and was very much influenced in a kind of covert way by our growing sense that the continuation of our species in this particular corner of the universe is compromised, and, consequently, by a growing feeling of the preciousness of our galaxy address—as if it were something like an old neighborhood about to be razed. (There are lots of exoplanets rotating around stars, but, so far, we, with our still limited means of seeing, have not found any life on them.) For a moment, one can look at the sky from our earthly vantage point and see the moon as a mere rock and think about how planetary moons are formed. But then the moon snaps back to being “our moon,” and we are once again “terrestrial,” living within the patterns of day and night that seem “natural” and comforting to us, and have been “explained” and enhanced by our myth-making minds.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Judy Kronenfeld has published two chapbooks and four full-length collections of poetry, including  Bird Flying through the Banquet (FutureCycle, 2017), Shimmer (WordTech, 2012), and Light Lowering in Diminished Sevenths, (2nd ed. Antrim House, 2012), winner of the Litchfield Review poetry book prize for 2007. Groaning and Singing, her fifth collection, will be published by FutureCycle in early 2022. Her poems have appeared in Cider Press Review, Cimarron Review, Ghost Town, New Ohio Review, One (Jacar Press), Pratik, Rattle, Slant, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Verdad, Your Daily Poem, and other journals, and in over three dozen  anthologies. She has published stories in Literary Mama, The Loch Raven Review, and other magazines, and creative nonfiction in Under the Sun, Hippocampus, and elsewhere.  She is Lecturer Emerita, Department of Creative Writing, UC Riverside, and an Associate Editor of Poemeleon. Visit her at

starlight agnes martin 1963
Plant the Habit of Loving
by Ranney Campbell

During all the time we continue to exist in this particular universe we will bathe in the far too cold for our eyes to see glow leftover from the Big Bang that was accidentally discovered by radio astronomers in the dark spaces between stars and galaxies in 1965 that was perhaps the black I saw and cold I felt when I floated away off that gurney in a San Bernardino emergency room in 1983 after suffering a by all evidence of medical science fatal head injury as a result of the missed hairpin turn somewhere above Crestline and all these years later when I put some plastic into my trash can I try to remember this happening even if the thought just hovers vaguely omnipresent like the microwave background remains of our primeval fireball with no point of origin occurring everywhere at once rather than project more invented stress into the universe with perturbed thoughts as I did for so long, because if I learned anything in those 77 seconds it was that the words “love” and “nonjudgement” don’t quite cover it and since not enough of my fellows ever would follow advice to recycle nor would they change opinions when I told them if you separate according to color any eight-year-old could tell you it is called “division” and that healing blooms best in conditions of unity, I eventually was forced into the compassion that the only thing I have to contribute is what is created within me and it cannot be expressed most effectively through bodily experiences but in higher energies because the force of loving without self-seeking attachment creates irrepressible exchanges and is the only chance we have to disrupt the temporal order enough to set free whatever futures are possible including one wherein maybe we can find a way to send enough carbon dioxide to Mars to create an atmosphere there and in the doing save what we can of what is left of our so delicately interdependent biodiversity here.

PAINTING: Starlight by Agnes Martin (1963).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ranney Campbell was born and reared in St. Louis, Missouri, and lives in Southern California. Her chapbook, Pimp, is published by Arroyo Seco Press and her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Misfit Magazine, Shark Reef, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Anti-Heroin Chic, Hummingbird: Magazine of the Short Poem, Eastern Iowa Review, and others.

licensed kevin berry
The Very Large Array
by Barbara Crary

The plan: casual, a site suggested
on the internet, a way station just off
the interstate, something to do while
on our way to more interesting things.

The Very Large Array, a designation
to which everyone responds, “What on Earth…?”
And I have to admit my own uncertainty —
Radio telescopes? Big white dishes with antennas?

All searching the heavens for unexpected patterns,
disruptions, anomalies light-years away. Now
I’m no stargazer, and maybe I can find
the Big Dipper on a good night, Orion too.

So why am I here? Perhaps the long stretch of highway,
an adventure on the open road, a morning spent exploring
someplace new, even if only a barren plain of
scrub and wiry grass, a few cows and fewer people.

As we drive, we search the horizon until at last
the telescopes come into view — we think —
tiny white dots against impossibly blue sky.
expanding almost imperceptibly as we approach.

Driving for a half hour or more before arrival,
we should have realized the surprising truth —
the dishes are huge and spaced miles apart,
a shock as we enter the gates and get our bearings.

It was the clash between expectation and reality.
Science, yes, but not just science, technology and the
raw beauty of stark white machines looming against
the bright blue sky of the high desert plains, the synchronized

movement of twenty-seven mechanical behemoths
creating powerful synergy in the unforgiving sun, forever
searching for our place among the stars, stars now obscured
by daylight, but still present, waiting for us to awaken.

The combination of the known world of mechanics and
science with the vast unmapped reaches of space, the
human desire to explore, drawing you down a two-lane
desert highway to a place to make sense of the seen and
the unseen.

PHOTO: The Very Large Array (VLA) near Socorro, New Mexico, by Kevin Berry, used by permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Very Large Array (VLA), comprised of twenty-eight 25-meter (82-foot) radio telescopes, is designed to allow investigations of many astronomical objects. Astronomers using the VLA have made key observations of black holes and protoplanetary disks around young stars, discovered magnetic filaments and traced complex gas motions at the Milky Way’s center, probed the Universe’s cosmological parameters, and provided new knowledge about the physical mechanisms that produce radio emission.The first antenna was put into place in September 1975 and the complex was formally inaugurated in 1980, after a total investment of $78.5 million. (Source: Wikipedia)

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My husband and I visited the VLA as part of a trip to New Mexico three years ago. Although we visited many landmarks in the state, including Carlsbad Caverns, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe and the cliff dwellings at Bandelier National Monument, we are most likely to reminisce about the unexpected and awe-inspiring delight of these space explorers in the western desert.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My husband at the Very Large Array in New Mexico (2017).

Crary 2

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Barbara Crary is a retired school psychologist who lives outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She started writing poetry several years ago and often writes in short forms such as haiku. She also enjoys the discipline of creating found poetry using words selected from existing texts. Barbara was a contributing poet to the collection, Whitmanthology: On Loss and Grief and shares her work on her blog

PHOTO: The author at the International Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

kal-visuals-1WWJ2XUcq85g-unsplash copy
by Alexis Rotella

I see it in a dream
a mask woven
from starlight

Photo by KAL VISUALS on Unsplash


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alexis Rotella is 2019 honorary curator Haiku Archives (California). Her latest book Scratches on the Moon won a Touchstone Distinguished Book Award (2019). In 2018 she curated/edited #MeToo Stories written in Japanese poetry forms), which also won the Touchstone award.

(For Mary)

by Mary-Marcia Casoly

She is surpassingly lovely throughout the whole of July,
emerging from the sea. Her northern declination
rapidly decreases

in direct proportion to our increased inclinations.
Divine love twists the torso
but does not prevent Venus from being

the most attractive bewitching grace
in our starlit sky, surfing
her way through our fallibility.

Infinite are summer nights.
Her appointed calendar so full to about
3 o’clock on the half-shell,

Improbably balanced, point ahead naked
or with the naked eye an opera starlet
that dares not collapse. Her transparent skin

so like the moon at last quarter.
Her linear passion takes place 1˚14’
north of the erudite. Sir Regulus takes the handle

of the sickle. Sir Leonis takes her spoon.
Witness this celestial meeting to know
what passes between them.

Nothing less than our failings converge
as tasks and loves yet to be. No reluctance
to become as we once were. Endless summer has

no perspective. Our dreams contrapposto,
at the very same time our principal actors dis-
appear from the scene; and we slip

beneath her horizon. An interesting phenomenon.
The bright moonlight may dim Regulus’s luster,
to no effect on Venus.

The ball keeps moving. Venus on the move and growing
more brilliant night after night in conjunctivitis
cahoots with Gamma Leonis,

following closely convivial conjecture with Rho Leonis.
It may be helpful to have some little knowledge
of opera, when our fairest star reaches

her greatest elongation. She’ll stick her neck out
for us, 45 ˚33’ – no contest.
Venus’s lessons will lengthen

our stay against destiny, drawing from
Kilgore Trout; being one with St. Bridget of Kildare,
thus proving her course changes as butter churns.

Twisting her torso left, she flips her head upside-down,
waterfalls of hair ripple above Rollingstone.
Figures cast no shadows

On the 31st of July she will sit little more than
an hour and a half after the sun. Venus’s right
ascension was the 2nd of July: 9 hrs 50 min long.

She cannot be defined by GPS. The bodies and poses
of the wind, even harder to figure out.
Her eyes are the color of the sea.

Rose petals skim air. She is surpassingly lovely.
Waves ease back and forth, challenge conventional
memory. The constellation of Leo rises.

IMAGE: “The Birth of Violet Venus,” based on “The Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli (1486). Prints available at

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I found an old newspaper astronomy column dated July 1887. The quaint phrasings brought to mind some midnight social intrigue, and then Botticelli’s Venus arrived on the scene. While writing “Venus on the Half Year” I was told my birth mother had recently died. I was struck how beautiful she looked in her obituary photo. The poem became a kind of elegy, in which I send her onward to mythic rebirth.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary-Marcia Casoly is the author of Run to Tenderness (Pantograph&Goldfish Press 2002) and the editor of Fresh Hot Bread, a local zine for Waverley Writers, an open poetry forum based in the San Francisco Bay area. Her chapbook Lost Pages of Bird Lore was published by Small Change Series, WordTemple Press (2011) Her chapbook “Austrailia Dreaming” is included in the The Ahadada Reader 3, published by Ahadada Press (2010) Her poem “Song of Mayhem” appears in the Silver Birch Press May Poetry Anthology (2014).

by Daniel McGinn

Today was sheltered
in a marine layer, we waded through
a sea without shadows.

Today I made a donation
for the funeral of a friend
killed by a drunk driver.

Tonight I watched a mouse escape from my dog.
I watched pink feet and black fur blur across concrete.
Tonight I saw the moon
poke its head out from the clouds
a black mist began rising up like a cape
to cover the chin, the lips, the teeth…

Lori asked me,
Does the moon always show us the same face
or does it sometimes show us other faces?
I don’t know, I said and we marveled
at how clouds had misshapen the moon’s skull.
It looked dented and pockmarked.
It looked like it had been kicked
and kicked repeatedly.

Feral kittens under my house began to yowl.
My dog ran zigzags
and barked and barked and barked.
A mouse squeezed her body into a hole in a brick wall,
a tight passage, small as a pencil spine,
then the mouse was gone.

No lights twinkled.
The moon turned dark as a dime
dropped down a slot.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniel McGinn’s writing has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including So Luminous the Wildflowers and Beyond the Valley of the Contemporary Poets. He was a journalist for the East Whittier Review, the OC Weekly and Next Magazine. He has hosted poetry shows across Southern California and performed at a variety of venues such as The Bowery Poetry Club in NYC and The Fuse in Philadelphia. Five of his chapbooks have been included in the Laguna Poets Series. 1,000 Black Umbrellas, his full length book of poetry, was published in 2012 by Write Bloody Publishing. “June Moon” and other writing by Daniel McGinn appears in the Silver Birch Press Summer Anthology (2013).

PAINTING: “La page blanche” (“The white page”) by René Magritte (1967).

by Tamara Madison

There you are at last!
I’m sure it’s you –
I can almost see you
there, waving at me:
my twin, my soul mate
my lover. Now
I can give up my search.
It’s only a matter of time
when we’ll be together
my love, my perfect
love. At last
someone who sees me
who knows me
who understands me
without words,
someone whom I too
will see and understand –
someone I can devote
my life to.
It will not matter
that our arms
may not match
that our bodies
may not fit
that we have no
common language
but the language
of desire
pulsing from your heart
to mine
over the mere 600 light years
that lie in the vast
and hopeful darkness
between your balmy
juicy world
and mine.

IMAGE: Artist’s conception of Kepler-22b (Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech).

NOTE: Kepler-22b is an extrasolar planet orbiting G-type star Kepler-22, located about 600 light years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus. Discovered by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope in 2011, it is the first known transiting planet to orbit within the habitable zone of a Sun-like star — the region where liquid water, a requirement for life on Earth, could persist. The planet is 2.4 times the size of Earth. (Read more at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tamara Madison teaches English and French at a public high school in Los Angeles. Raised on a citrus farm in the California desert, Tamara’s life has taken her many places, including Europe and the former Soviet Union, where she spent fifteen months in the 1970s. A swimmer and dog lover, Tamara says, “All I ever wanted to do with my life was write, and I mostly write poetry because it suits my lifestyle; I like the way one can say so much in the economical space of a poem.”

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.

SOURCE: “Gravity” appears in John Frederick Nims’ collection The Six-Cornered Snowflake and Other Poems (New Directions, 1990), available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Poet and academic John Frederick Nims (1913-1999) graduated from DePaul University, University of Notre Dame with an M.A., and from the University of Chicago with a Ph.D. He taught English at Harvard University, the University of Florence, the University of Toronto, Williams College and the University of Missouri. His books of poetry include Zany in Denim (University of Arkansas Press, 1990); The Six-Cornered Snowflake and Other Poems (1990); The Kiss: A Jambalaya (1982); Knowledge of the Evening (1960), nominated for a National Book Award; A Fountain in Kentucky (1950); and The Iron Pastoral (1947). Among his honors are an American Academy of Arts and Letters award, a National Foundation for the Arts and Humanities grant, and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, The Guggenheim Foundation, and The Institute of the Humanities. He served as editor of Poetry magazine from 1978 to 1984.

Painting: ”Le Château des Pyrénées” by René Magritte (1959)