Astronomy and Me
Planets, real and imagined, often get attention here on earth. Like Frank
Herbert’s Dune Wonder, Arrakis, home of the spice, most valuable treasure
in the universe; or Mars, the red planet we scour for life’s building blocks–
carbon, water and petrified Martians; also, Pluto, on and off the list for
decades, named by an eleven year old English girl. I don’t know which is
more impressive, that the planet was named by a teenager or that a
teenager chose a Roman god instead of John, Paul, George or Ringo.
As a youngster in school, I remember astronomy as a new science, not
having yet landed on the moon nor even heard the Big Bang. I made a
model of the solar system, out of balloons, planets to scale but not their
orbits. That would have taken seven miles of the Nevada Black Rock
I wondered how the planets, asteroids, and other big rocks, despite
concentric orbits, avoided crashing into each other like racecars on the
NASCAR circuit. Scientists preached probability, like playing marbles in a
parking lot, the gigantic vacuum of space. But I can find a piece of dog poop
with my shoes in the dark. Some of us are just talented. The movie makers
dreamt about asteroids hurtling toward earth and spun yarns about Bruce
Willis preventing the apocalypse.
I accepted that the sun burned 93 million miles from the earth, a distance I felt I could
live with. We studied Fig Newton’s Laws of Motion, the forces of attraction and
gravity. I did feel this attraction in class once, bumping into Theresa Fannon’s planets
on the way to recess.
A light year was just being made public, not to be confused with a light beer
invented the year before and launched at the Super Bowl. I accepted on
faith why standing at the South Pole, or Tierra del Fuego for that matter,
didn’t feel upside down, explained again by my attraction to Miss Fannon. In
fact, gravity explained just about any nonsense: Dad, why can’t I borrow the
car? Well, son, gravity, that’s why. Would we even know if the north and
south poles traded places? I’m pretty sure Einstein told us that space is
curved – and yes, of course, gravity does the bending…
All in all, it makes sense why I majored in English, finding it a touch easier to
understand white whales, Boo Radley, and Don Quixote than the theory of
On a walk
in the bamboo forest
dreams roll in.
Heavy brume and mist
obscure the green jungle,
as if looking through a wet window.
Hornbills cry and wind shakes grass.
The silverback steps out
from the bush,
ghost-like hair, two steps,
a knuckle walk and pause,
calmly surveying his realm.
He bares white canines
and taps his black leather chest
with massive hands,
the sound almost imperceptible,
more like a yawn –
a suspicion of power.
and barrel thighs
belie his slow movement.
brown eyes deep in caves,
face dominated by nostrils,
a natural frown.
Make no mistake,
he once had a quick temper,
roused by threats and jealous rivals.
My realm, too,
has turned to silver and white
over the yawn of years.
We stand across this dreamy chasm
and regard each other,
hominid cousins in our sterling years.
The silverback pounds his fist
on the dirt as if to say
we are still Lords of our Forest.
Frank Babcock lives in Corvallis, Oregon and is a retired Albany middle school teacher and owner of a bamboo nursery. He writes poetry to share the strange thoughts that rattle around in his head and to get them off his mind. He started with an interest in the beatnik poets, Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg. He has a long way to go and much to write before he sleeps. Poems published in the local Advocate, Willawaw Journal, and Panoplyzine.