Astropoetica: Mapping the Stars through Poetry

Upon Attending the Unveiling of Galaxy Messier 101

Messier 101 (M101): composite of data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Spitzer Space Telescope

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/JHU/K.Kuntz et al.;
Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI/JHU/K. Kuntz et al.;
IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/K. Gordon

Between spaces of conversation
we orbit the mystery of each other,
dipping into a dash of comet, savoring a snack of star,
waiting to partake in a galactic meal of Messier 101.

We form a half moon, a quilt of eager bodies
pieced together and as the veil is lifted
hungry eyes feast upon a galaxy
as it looked and lived and breathed
22 million light years ago. Our eyes touched by

light that set forth on its journey to us,
just as the dinosaurs disappeared and the
Mastodon set its massive foot on earth,
this light from then only reaching us now.

The Hubble sees the visible, a whirling
pinwheel missing-its-stick galaxy
dipped in cotton candy, a fluffy center
drizzled in light caramel, arms swirling,
beckoning: come and taste.

Spitzer's infrared eye peers into a blue
haze and sees—warmed by the light of baby stars—
dusty red wombs, ready to spill life
into this eye-of-a-hurricane galaxy.

The Chandra's x-ray vision peers
into a sea of darkness, exposing the sparkling
head of a blue and red dandelion,
a mix of untold worlds gone to seed.

It takes three different telescopes to pull
together the final course,
three realities overlapping
to expose the essence of one galaxy.

It is as if we are
entering the eyes of God
to peel back time and dine on ancient beauty,
this lusty, exploding stew of color
and spiraling movement…

Stripped of all-seeing eyes
we orbit the mystery of each other
and leave, patting bellies
full of old universe, palates

eager and curious to taste
Messier at this moment. But we
must be patient, must wait
22 million years for light to reach us,
to show us today.

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Jennifer Clark's poem "Breakfast Mourning" was nominated by Editions Bibliotekos for a Pushcart Prize in 2009. Her work has recently appeared in Driftwood, Defenestration, Gloom Cupboard, Raven Chronicles, Dogs Singing: A Tribute Anthology (Salmon Press), and All Poetry is Prayer. She has work forthcoming in Rose & Thorn Magazine, Paper Crow, The Seventh Sin (Shade City Press), and Main Street Rag. She lives in Michigan where she serves as director of community relations for Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo.