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Star Poems

ISSUE:  Spring 1959


We calculate how far
A mica-flash of light
Must travel out through space
To reach the earth tonight

In multiples of O’s
Too cumbersome to learn,
But we are gratified
That any light should burn

So fiercely and so long
Or even come so far
We see it there at all,
A coldly twinkling star.

Translated into speed,
A light year in the round—
Roughly six trillion miles—
Is somehow less profound

Than what we clearly see
And even what we touch.
We cannot quite believe
That distance matters much.

It is the light we want,
And light we mean to get,
Whether it comes and goes
Or has not reached us yet.

Some of the light that burns,
So science says, comes through
So far from outer space,
That what we think is new

Is old as time itself.
We should be overawed
To see if not to touch
The very mind of God. 


The star beyond our view,
That perfect and sublime
All-seeing point of light
Within the curve of time,

Suggests as universe
A center everywhere
Reflecting on itself,
Not shining here and there

By chance without design,
And, given form and place,
The light of all light years
Transmogrifying space.

This is, at least, our guess.
Although the stars that mark
The course by which we keep
Our bearings in the dark

Fade out at break of day,
Our orbit seems secure
As governed by the sun,
If anything is sure.

But what the light to be
Will have to shine upon
When, finally, it comes,
Like some tremendous dawn,

Is not for us to know.
All matter changes shape,
And though the light will grow,
Substance cannot escape,

Become pure form, unless
The body and the mind
Become the very thing
For which they were designed. 


Earth can so seldom shine
Except when fire breaks out
At some unlikely spot,
We have small cause to doubt

An old hypothesis
That does not quite explain
How we first came to be
But will not be again:

A little fragment flung
White hot against the vast
And sempiternal dark,
A star, until at last

The fire had flickered down
And, whirling in that huge
Cold absolute of time
As in a centrifuge,

A mote became a world.
The sun became the source
Of all we have become,
Our center and our force.

The light we can create
Must travel fast and far
To penetrate beyond
The sun to any star

Whose own light, too far off
For us to catch, may be
As fitful now as ours,
And yet, some earth may see

The faint and dying glow
We made those light years gone
Before our surface cooled
And what we were still shone.  


A bushel more than hides
The little light we make.
The nearest star we see
    Can more than take

Our total orbit in.
But we can do as much:
We put the starlight out
    With one sure touch:

Our hand is big enough,
Or just the human mind,
The universe by which
    We are defined.


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