Archives for posts with tag: astronomy

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Night Poem
by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser

The moon put her white hands 
on my shoulders, looked into my face,
and without a word
sent me on into the night. 

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Find more poems by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser in BRAIDED CREEK: A Conversation in Poetry, available at Amazon.com.

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STARS
by Marjorie Pickthall

Now in the West the slender moon lies low,
And now Orion glimmers through the trees,
Clearing the earth with even pace and slow,
And now the stately-moving Pleiades,
In that soft infinite darkness overhead
Hang jewel-wise upon a silver thread.
 
And all the lonelier stars that have their place,
Calm lamps within the distant southern sky,
And planet-dust upon the edge of space,
Look down upon the fretful world, and I
Look up to outer vastness unafraid
And see the stars which sang when earth was made. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marjorie Pickthall (1883–1922) was born in England but lived in Canada from the age of seven. She was once considered the best Canadian poet of her generation.

ILLUSTRATION: “Crescent Moon with Earthshine and the Constellation Orion” by David Nunuk. Prints available at allposters.com.

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SPIDER CRYSTAL ASCENSION
by Charles Wright

The spider, juiced crystal and Milky Way, drifts on his web through the night sky
And looks down, waiting for us to ascend …
 
At dawn he is still there, invisible, short of breath, mending his net.
 
All morning we look for the white face to rise from the lake like a tiny star.
And when it does, we lie back in our watery hair and rock.
***
“Spider Crystal Ascension” by Charles Wright appears in Country Music: Selected Early Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1982)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charles Wright (born August 25, 1935) is an American poet. He shared the National Book Award in 1983 for Country Music: Selected Early Poems and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for Black Zodiac. (Read more at wikipedia.org)

PHOTO: “A twisted star-forming web in Galaxy IC 342” (NASA). Note: Looking like a spider’s web swirled into a spiral, the galaxy IC 342 presents its delicate pattern of dust in this image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Seen in infrared light, the faint starlight gives way to the glowing bright patterns of dust found throughout the galaxy’s disk. (Read more at nasa.gov)

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HALLEY’S COMET
by Stanley Kunitz 

Miss Murphy in first grade
wrote its name in chalk
across the board and told us
it was roaring down the stormtracks
of the Milky Way at frightful speed
and if it wandered off its course
and smashed into the earth
there’d be no school tomorrow.
A red-bearded preacher from the hills
with a wild look in his eyes
stood in the public square
at the playground’s edge
proclaiming he was sent by God
to save every one of us,
even the little children.
“Repent, ye sinners!” he shouted,
waving his hand-lettered sign.
At supper I felt sad to think
that it was probably
the last meal I’d share
with my mother and my sisters;
but I felt excited too
and scarcely touched my plate.
So mother scolded me
and sent me early to my room.
The whole family’s asleep
except for me. They never heard me steal
into the stairwell hall and climb
the ladder to the fresh night air.
Look for me, Father, on the roof
of the red brick building
at the foot of Green Street—
that’s where we live, you know, on the top floor.
I’m the boy in the white flannel gown
sprawled on this coarse gravel bed
searching the starry sky,
waiting for the world to end.
***
“Halley’s Comet” appears in The Collected Poems: Stanley Kunitz (W. W. Norton & Company, 2000)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006) became the tenth Poet Laureate of the United States in the autumn of 2000. Kunitz was ninety-five years old at the time, still actively publishing and promoting poetry to new generations of readers. In the New York Times Book Review, Robert Campbell noted that Kunitz’s selection as poet laureate “affirms his stature as perhaps the most distinguished living American poet.”Atlantic Monthly contributor David Barber cited Kunitz as “not only one of the most widely admired figures in contemporary poetry but also, rarer still, a true ambassador for his art.” (Read more at poetryfoundation.org.)

PHOTO: Halley’s Comet, NASA (1986)

NOTE: Halley’s Comet is a “periodic” comet and returns to Earth’s vicinity about every 75 years, making it possible for a human to see it twice in his or her lifetime. The last time it was here was in 1986, and it is projected to return in 2061. The comet is named after English astronomer Edmond Halley, who examined reports of a comet approaching Earth in 1531, 1607 and 1682. He concluded that these three comets were actually the same comet returning over and over again, and predicted the comet would come again in 1758.  (Read more at space.com)

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LIGHT-YEARS
by Hester Knibbe (Translated by Jacquelyn Pope)

It’s a beautiful world, you said,
with these trees, marshes, deserts,
grasses, rivers and seas
 
and so on. And the moon is really something
in its circuits
of relative radiance. Include
 
the wingèd M, voluptuous
Venus, hotheaded Mars, that lucky devil
J and cranky Saturn, of course, plus
 
U and N and the wanderer P, in short
the whole solar family, complete with its
Milky Way, and count up all the other
 
systems with dots and spots and in
that endless emptiness what you’ve got
is a commotion of you-know-what. It’s a beautiful
 
universe, you said, just take a good look
through the desert’s dark glasses
for instance or on your back
 
in seas of grass, take a good look
at the deluge of that Rorschach—we’re standing out there
somewhere, together.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hester Knibbe’s books of poems include Oogsteen (2009) and Bedrieglijke dagen (2008), both from De Arbeiderspers. She received the A. Roland Holst prize in 2009.

PHOTO: “Desert Snow” by Wally Pacholka/Astropics.com, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Note on photo: Constellation Canis Major with the brightest star of night sky, Sirius, shines above Southern California’s Joshua Tree National Park (December 2008).

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CHOOSE SOMETHING LIKE A STAR
by Robert Frost

O Star (the fairest one in sight),

We grant your loftiness the right

To some obscurity of cloud –

It will not do to say of night,

Since dark is what brings out your light.

Some mystery becomes the proud.

But to be wholly taciturn

In your reserve is not allowed.

Say something to us we can learn

By heart and when alone repeat.

Say something! And it says “I burn.”

But say with what degree of heat.

Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.

Use language we can comprehend.

Tell us what elements you blend.

It gives us strangely little aid,

But does tell something in the end.

And steadfast as Keats’ Eremite,

Not even stooping from its sphere,

It asks a little of us here.

It asks of us a certain height,

So when at times the mob is swayed

To carry praise or blame too far,

We may choose something like a star

To stay our minds on and be staid.

PAINTING: “Starry Night” by Alex Ruiz. ARTIST’S NOTE: This is an homage to Vincent van Gogh, and to his painting “The Starry Night,” one of my all time favorites. We see him standing here, looking up at the night sky…probably in awe, as he wondered how he would capture the beauty he saw. (Read more at io9.com.)

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STARS
by Robert Frost 

How countlessly they congregate

O’er our tumultuous snow,

Which flows in shapes as tall as trees

When wintry winds do blow!–


 
As if with keenness for our fate,

Our faltering few steps on

To white rest, and a place of rest

Invisible at dawn,–


 
And yet with neither love nor hate,

Those stars like some snow-white

Minerva’s snow-white marble eyes

Without the gift of sight.

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CANIS MAJOR
by Robert Frost

The great Overdog
That heavenly beast

With a star in one eye

Gives a leap in the east.

He dances upright

All the way to the west

And never once drops

On his forefeet to rest.

I’m a poor underdog,

But to-night I will bark

With the great Overdog

That romps through the dark.

NOTE: Canis Major is one of the 88 modern constellations, and was included in the 2nd-century astronomer Ptolemy‘s 48 constellations. Its name is Latin for “greater dog,” and is the constellation is commonly represented as one of the dogs following Orion the hunter. Canis Major contains Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, known as the “dog star” — bright because of its proximity to our solar system. (Read more at wikipedia.org.)

IMAGE: Antique drawing of Canis Major. Prints available at etsy.com.

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CONSTELLATIONS
by Robert Frost

You’ll wait a long, long time for anything much
To happen in heaven beyond the floats of cloud
And the Northern Lights that run like tingling nerves.
The sun and moon get crossed, but they never touch,
Nor strike out fire from each other nor crash out loud.
The planets seem to interfere in their curves —
But nothing ever happens, no harm is done.
We may as well go patiently on with our life,
And look elsewhere than to stars and moon and sun
For the shocks and changes we need to keep us sane.
It is true the longest drought will end in rain,
The longest peace in China will end in strife.
Still it wouldn’t reward the watcher to stay awake
In hopes of seeing the calm of heaven break
On his particular time and personal sight.
That calm seems certainly safe to last to-night.

PHOTO:Northern Lights” by Jordan Thompson, Ft. McMurray Today, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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ORION THE HUNTER
by Grace O’Malley

He stands in my doorway
like a cross.
The hunter has come down.
He walks me under street lights
which are more sullen and yellower
than the full moon — its cool
blind eye of bone
and fracture high high above.
His bronze face pure
with starlight or anger
or perhaps love.
“The world
will never be your idea of just
or merciful.”
It all seems one
and I feel it
like an arrow’s blade
at the division between
bone and muscle,
soul and spirit,
like hunger
but more like the craving
after beauty
that is only for brief
apocalyptic
moments satisfied.
Tense
as a bowstring, the
artistry of one straight line,
he walks away
and under the moonlight
is one motion,
flowing up like a spring
from the tendon of the heel.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This poem owes a debt to poet Mary Oliver, who wrote a poem about the constellation Orion coming down out of the sky to talk to her…in my poem the figure of Orion is God. This piece is about me growing up — the necessity of facing the fact that the world is full of evil and injustice, while still holding onto my identity as a person with a moral compass, a person who can relate to God in the midst of an unjust world. It is about the balance in life between knowing that “things just aren’t fair” and living as an individual with integrity anyway. To be a whole person, I think one has to come to terms with these two sides of life. It is also inspired by my habit of long late night walks, sometimes talking to God about the troubles of the world, and sometimes just being with him.

PAINTING: “Orion the Hunter” by Timothy Benz, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.