EarthSky News explains Genesis

How did the universe become transparent? NASA’s Webb space telescope has found that in the early opaque universe, galaxies were surrounded by huge, clear bubbles, as depicted in this artist’s illustration. The bubbles gradually merged together over about a hundred million years, with the entire universe becoming clear and transparent as a result. Image via NASA/ ESA/ CSA/ Joyce Kang (STScI).

EarthSky News explains Genesis

In the beginning,
after the Big Bang,
stars in clusters
formed invisible
to one another through
dense hydrogen gas.
Space was opaque.
And darkness was upon
the face of the deep.

Starshine slowly ionized
the gas, turning it clear.
First one, then many
glimmers could be seen.

Bubbles of transparency
merged to encompass
whole galaxies until
a whole galaxy was
small as a pea inside 
a hot-air balloon
by comparison.

Later (a hundred million
years later) the bubbles
had all merged –the whole
universe transparent
to the light. Fiat lux.

Posted in Poetry | 2 Comments

Sun on the Garden

Adam naming the animals of the world, from the Peterborough Bestiary (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 53, f. 195v, 14th Century)

After years of benign neglect, I’ve been spending time and money in the nurseries and garden tool departments of the hardware store. And I find that working in the garden feels satisfying solid in comparison to the airier pursuits of art.

Sun on the Garden

The part that makes poetry has lain sleeping, and now
(after COVID again) tumbleweeds blow through my brain.
So instead, I dig and plant and water and mulch and weed,
thinking of nothing much under the late spring sun, except
how the names of flora make their own kind of poetry:
lobelia and marigold, shrub rose and geranium, salvia.

That would make Adam the first poet, I suppose, sitting
in the Garden of Eden naming all the animals: “Platypus, 
I shall call you platypus.” — and all the others, an arkful
of the newly named for Noah to salvage from the flood.
I name them to myself as they come to check my work:
robin, rabbit, chipmunk, butterfly, black fly and whitetail.

This is the power of word. To name it is to see it, to bring
its smell to the nose, just as the mind mimes each story
even as it’s told, or as we twitch and mutter to dreams.
So small the difference between word and world, a thing
thin as the skin that separates me from thee, a mere tissue.
Yet call it what you will, flesh in fact is fact, and word is air.

I wave the hose head back and forth like a magic wand or
a maestro’s baton, calling up water from below the bedrock.
But one only tends a garden, encouraging life. The maestro
creates no symphony, no matter how dramatically he waves.
The flowers know what powers the upthrust of their lives.
They turn its way each day as it tracks across the skies.

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April haiku

Photo: ForestWander, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Snowflakes are fallng
on seventeen daffodils
beside the old well

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What Guys Do and Do Not Do

Guys turning the world’s crank.

Guys do not gambol,
neither do they frolic.

Guys keep themselves
busy fixing things,
explaining things, and
turning the world’s crank.

You’re welcome.

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Spring Morning

Photo: KaCey97078, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Sugar season: when one of my old Listening Post essays can be boiled down into 31 syllables, it tastes sweeter.

Spring Morning

One daffodil in a vase 
on the kitchen table 
in a pool of sunlight.
Coffee in shirtsleeves
before an open window.

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Photo: Maliz Ong, released to public domain

There is a qualitative difference between grace and its near relative, luck. Luck, for good or for ill, is bestowed randomly by an indifferent universe. Grace feels like a personal gift from one who knows your inmost desire.


Sometimes while a storm still rages
the sun shouts out from the horizon.
Sometimes the locked door pounded on
a hundred times before is found ajar.

There is no way to make it so. So,
wait for it, wait more, and love life.
A long season runs between planting
and harvest. Anything could happen.

Posted in Poetry, The Other Village | 1 Comment

Fluid Dynamics

Photo: David O’Hare, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Just ran across a draft of this written back when I was doing an April poem-a-s-day challenge. I think it cleans up nicely.

Fluid Dynamics

The whirlpool behind Sugar Island dam
where snowmelt drops to the penstock
sends ripples back across the flow,
breaking up the reflection of clouds
trying to move east against the current.

The vortex runs white for a moment,
shredding cumulus, then resumes draining
the sky of blue. The penstock runs north
to the powerhouse, to wring the water’s
watts. What does it wring from the sky?

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An English Major Explains the Universe

Deepest infrared image of the Universe yet. Photo: NASA’s Webb Telescope, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

I once read Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time.” Heavy sledding, but there was this one bright moment when it all became perfectly clear. My hair stood on end for about five seconds, and then it all fell apart again. I am a big-time science wienie and was struck by an article in this morning’s EarthSky e-newsletter. My abstract that follows explains how 95% of everything is beyond our ken.

An English Major Explains the Universe

Astrophysicists tell us that everything we perceive,
from the end of our noses to the edge of the universe,
using all of our senses and all our high technology–
that’s five percent of what there is. All the matter 
and the light by which we see it, is less than the tip
of the iceberg. We might have suspected this all along.

Twenty-seven percent they say is made of dark matter, 
about which we know nothing except that it has mass.
And all the rest, sixty-eight percent, that’s dark energy.
And we know nothing about that except that it pushes
everything apart better than gravity holds it together.
If you think about it, we could have suspected that, too.

The astrophysicists think dark energy comes from
supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies,
is dark light that shines from dark stars, one might say.
Easy to believe come nightfall that darkness outweighs
the light; it pours out thick and heavy from shadowed woods.
But the dawn still comes to chase all the darkness away.

Posted in Poetry, The Other Village | 1 Comment

Cold Village

Photo: stuart anthony, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Being cold a lot is good for the ingenuity. There a lot of ways to get warm, both literally and figuratively. Ignore the folks from more blessed climes who try to tell you that it’s like hitting yourself with a hammer because it feels so good when you stop. So what.

Cold Village

I can’t lie; it’s not paradise. Winter is too long,
too cold, with more than our fair share of snow
(though not quite so much as in years past).
I was reminded of it this week by a little thing.

The thermometer went to 30 below overnight,
and didn’t rise above zero all the next day—
old-school cold. And there I was again, dressing
myself while standing on top of the heat vent. 

I worry little about the cold these days, having 
a reliable furnace and sufficient funds to fuel it.
It also helps to avoid going outdoors too much
between Thanksgiving and Mothers’ Day.

But having enough heat passes for prosperity
in a northern winter. Just ask anyone without it.
Though a woodstove and woodlot can do in lieu
of income. Nothing like cold feet up on a boot rail.

Winter got set into my bones when I was knee high.
Out sledding, fingers so froze I cried as they thawed.
Hypothermia from biking the paper route. Waking
to an icy heat vent when the coal stoker crapped out.

Which it did on a regular basis– mid-century tech
welded to a 1920s cellar monster. And walls filled
with 1800s insulation, bricks stacked in between studs.
You could hang a wind chime in front of the window draft.

These days two-incomes keep us warm and cozy, mostly,
though it’s never safe to take that for granted. For instance,
when sleet fell for a week straight in 1998 we had no power,
no cook stove, no water. And all of the trees were falling.

Everyone poor and cold again–except, of course, the Amish.
Luckily we found ourselves rich in friends, who took us in,
and warmed by the way folks pitched in and helped out
all over the North Country to make it whole once more.

It all comes back to mind, triggered by that moment—
bare feet on a warn steel grate, warm air billowing
up my bathrobe, looking out into the whiteness 
through hoar-frosted glass at the creaking tress.

Posted in Poetry, The Other Village | 1 Comment

Light in Other Windows

Photo: ChrisGoldNY, Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

While I have sufficient opinions on the management of every aspect of life, I’m afraid I will never get the opportunity to run the world according to my designs because I am always discombobulated by the coming of morning. While I’m still trying to find my glasses and put on my pants, others have already grasped the reins of power.

Light in Other Windows

Sleepless again, I look for light in other
windows. Who shares my waking — 
tapping at a keyboard, reading late
on a lonely bed, or pacing a cold floor?

What might another night hold? Each
inhabits a different village from each
when everyone else lies deep asleep.
The grocer remembers a woman’s scent;

a vet wakes up from heavy shelling;
a pregnant woman rubs her back.
For me, aging, I sleep little and lightly
as if saving up for my eternal rest.

They sleep best who lack imagination,
rise early, clear-headed, and set to work. 
Night owls waken one eye at a time, stagger
up to brew coffee, then take it back to bed.

Note: unpublished draft

Posted in Poetry, The Other Village | 3 Comments