The exact recipe for our telescope mirrors is a secret.
What seals the glitter is fine ground horse
manure, its acid a clinging ingredient when we forge
the mirror. We sell telescopes to archdukes who stand
on balconies all over Europe, to the Czar in Russia—
the King's stipend never lasts us to the end
of the month. So a wagonload of manure, ripe
fruit of the countryside, is dropped into the bin
by the workshop. I invite visitors to help me press
the manure through a sieve. Oh, they say,
oh, no. They have come to gaze at the famous William,
the evening star, the gibbous moon rising,
and they ask, can we come back at midnight? Yes.
But by four in the morning I'm alone on the roof. As I look
through the telescope, the sweat dried into my brow
links me to the bright milky avenue. No one
has more of the earth caked beneath her fingernails
and the wink of the universe ghosting through her eyes.
Air feathers my lungs, my blood circles and hums.
I'm every element on this planet brimming to the beginning
of what is not us, the larger breath, the unfathomed door.
Credit: The Scientific Papers of Sir William Herschel, courtesy of The University of Chicago Library
Laura Long previously lived at McDonald Observatory in far west Texas with her husband, an astronomer. In December 2013, after years of research, she published The Eye of Caroline Herschel: A Life in Poems, a chapbook from Finishing Line Press. This collection includes the poems in Astropoetica and also poems nominated for a 2014 Pushcart Prize. Her first novel, Out of Peel Tree, was published in April 2014. She teaches at Lynchburg College.