Tuesday Musings

I’m going to be on a panel this Friday with two other folks from LAS. I have to talk about astronomy and poetry as this panel is spin off of our bigger project here at school, The Year of Galileo. I’ve been playing around with topics for the last few weeks, but yesterday I finally had a breakthrough, which is good because I have to talk for about 15 minutes or so. I’m going to lead off talking a little about Galileo as a poet (he wrote a few poems in an obscure Italian form and also a few sonnets) and use a riddle that he starts with at the beginning of his poem “Enigma.” The riddle is about a comet, so I figure it segues nicely into Stanley Kunitz’s poem “Halley’s Comet” and then we’ll move in “Bright Star by” John Keats. I have a small Whitman poem if we have time, but I also have “I Remember Galileo” by Gerald Stern, so I think I’m covered in terms of material.

I’m going to put a brief power point presentation together and ask for audience participation. Here’s hoping it goes off well, or that I can at least take up my 15 minutes.

I sent a few more submissions out this week, but my eight week class is coming to a close, so the next week is going to be a bit chaotic. Thankfully, once that class is over, my schedule improves significantly.

We’re conducting the inspection on the house we’re looking to purchase today, so here’s hoping that goes smoothly. This whole process has been a bit of a roller coaster, and I will continue to keep quiet about it (blogwise) until we close on October 30th.


The music of the autumn wind sings low,
Down by the ruins of the painted hills,
Where death lies flaming with a marvellous glow,
Upon the ash of rose and daffodils.
But I can find no melancholoy here
To see the naked rocks and thinning trees;
Earth strips to grapple with the winter year—
I see her gnarled hills plan for victories!

I love the earth who goes to battle now,
To struggle with the wintry whipping storm
ANd brings the glorious spring out from the night,
I see earth’s muscles bared, her battle brow,
And am not sad, but feel her marvelous charm
As splendidly she plunges in the fight.

Edwin Curran

The Sirens

I never knew the road
From which the whole earth didn’t call away,
With wild birds rounding the hill crowns,
Haling out of the heart and old dismay,
Or the shore somewhere pounding its slow code,
Or low-lighted towns
Seeming to tell me, stay.

Lands I have never seen
And shall not see, loves I will not forget,
All I have missed, or slighted, or foregone
Call to me now. And weaken me. And yet
I would not walk a road without a scene.
I listen going on,
The richer for regret.

Richard Wilbur


Galileo’s Daughter signed by Dava Sobel

The 2009 issue of New Voices. This is the yearly literary magazine put out by my community college, and I helped copy edit the final proofs.

Illinoise by Sufjan Stevens. I bought it today at out local independent music store, Luna. Today celebrated independent music stores across the country.

RJ’s birthday present. He went to Don’s Guns and shot a .37 magnum.
He gave me one of the shells.

The winners of the 2009 Poetry Contest.

Saturday (Sobel, Sun, and Starbucks) Musings

My community college had the pleasure of hosting Dava Sobel, author of Galileo’s Daughter, Longitude, and The Planets this afternoon. RJ and I went to the reading and it was excellent. We also purchased a copy of Galileo’s Daughter (which I’ve been meaning to read) and had it signed. What I liked most about Sobel’s presentation, was that she incoporated several different poems into her talk. She also stressed the beauty and lyricism that Galileo and his daughter used in their correspondence. Below are some of the poems Sobel mentioned.


The Star Splitter

‘You know Orion always comes up sideways.
Throwing a leg up over our fence of mountains,
And rising on his hands, he looks in on me
Busy outdoors by lantern-light with something
I should have done by daylight, and indeed,

After the ground is frozen, I should have done
Before it froze, and a gust flings a handful
Of waste leaves at my smoky lantern chimney
To make fun of my way of doing things,
Or else fun of Orion’s having caught me.
Has a man, I should like to ask, no rights
These forces are obliged to pay respect to?’
So Brad McLaughlin mingled reckless talk
Of heavenly stars with hugger-mugger farming,
Till having failed at hugger-mugger farming
He burned his house down for the fire insurance

And spent the proceeds on a telescope
To satisfy a lifelong curiosity
About our place among the infinities.

‘What do you want with one of those blame things?’
I asked him well beforehand. ‘Don’t you get one!’

‘Don’t call it blamed; there isn’t anything
More blameless in the sense of being less

A weapon in our human fight,’ he said.
‘I’ll have one if I sell my farm to buy it.’
There where he moved the rocks to plow the ground
And plowed between the rocks he couldn’t move,

Few farms changed hands; so rather than spend years
Trying to sell his farm and then not selling,
He burned his house down for the fire insurance
And bought the telescope with what it came to.
He had been heard to say by several:

‘The best thing that we’re put here for’s to see;
The strongest thing that’s given us to see with’s
A telescope. Someone in every town
Seems to me owes it to the town to keep one.
In Littleton it might as well be me.’
After such loose talk it was no surprise
When he did what he did and burned his house down.

Mean laughter went about the town that day
To let him know we weren’t the least imposed on,
And he could wait—we’d see to him tomorrow.
But the first thing next morning we reflected
If one by one we counted people out
For the least sin, it wouldn’t take us long
To get so we had no one left to live with.
For to be social is to be forgiving.
Our thief, the one who does our stealing from us,
We don’t cut off from coming to church suppers,
But what we miss we go to him and ask for.
He promptly gives it back, that is if still

Uneaten, unworn out, or undisposed of.
It wouldn’t do to be too hard on Brad
About his telescope. Beyond the age
Of being given one for Christmas gift,
He had to take the best way he knew how
To find himself in one. Well, all we said was
He took a strange thing to be roguish over.
Some sympathy was wasted on the house,
A good old-timer dating back along;

But a house isn’t sentient; the house
Didn’t feel anything. And if it did,
Why not regard it as a sacrifice,
And an old-fashioned sacrifice by fire,
Instead of a new-fashioned one at auction?

Out of a house and so out of a farm
At one stroke (of a match), Brad had to turn

To earn a living on the Concord railroad,
As under-ticket-agent at a station
Where his job, when he wasn’t selling tickets,
Was setting out, up track and down, not plants
As on a farm, but planets, evening stars
That varied in their hue from red to green.

He got a good glass for six hundred dollars.
His new job gave him leisure for stargazing.
Often he bid me come and have a look
Up the brass barrel, velvet black inside,
At a star quaking in the other end.
I recollect a night of broken clouds
And underfoot snow melted down to ice,
And melting further in the wind to mud.

Bradford and I had out the telescope.
We spread our two legs as we spread its three,
Pointed our thoughts the way we pointed it,
And standing at our leisure till the day broke,
Said some of the best things we ever said.
That telescope was christened the Star-Splitt
Because it didn’t do a thing but split
A star in two or three, the way you split
A globule of quicksilver in your hand
With one stroke of your finger in the middle.
It’s a star-splitter if there ever was one,
And ought to do some good if splitting stars
‘Sa thing to be compared with splitting wood.

We’ve looked and looked, but after all where are we?
Do we know any better where we are,

And how it stands between the night tonight
And a man with a smoky lantern chimney?
How different from the way it ever stood?

Robert Frost

The Flight of Apollo

Earth was my home, but even there I was a stranger.
This mineral crust. I walk like a swimmer. What titanic bombardments in
those old astral wars! I know what I know: I shall never escape from
strangeness or complete my journey. Think of me as nostalgic, afraid,
exalted. I am your man on the moon, a speck of megalomania, restless
for the leap toward island universes pulsing beyond where the
constellations set. Infinite space overwhelms the human heart, but in
the middle of nowhere life inexorably calls to
life. Forward my mail to
Mars. What news from the Great Spiral Nebula in Andromeda and the
Magellanic Clouds?
I was a stranger on earth.
Stepping on the moon, I begin
the gay pilgrimage to new
in foreign galaxies.
Heat. Cold. Craters of silence.
The Sea of Tranquility
rolling on the shores of entropy.
And, beyond,
the intelligence of the stars.
Stanley Kunitz
*She also included “We Are Listening” by Diane Ackerman. Unfortunately, I cannot find a decent copy on the web, but I’ll continue to look.

Saturday (Dickinson and Galileo) Musings

This afternoon I went to our first Speaker Series event at school, An Afternoon with Galileo and Emily Dickinson. It was an interesting program. The play was based of the PBS series that Steven Allen put on. I’ve never seen the television episodes (they’ve long since gone off the air) but I like the idea of a “meeting of the minds.” I’m not sure that Emily Dickinson would have come off as forceful as the woman who portrayed her, but it was a nice way to spend a few hours on a Saturday afternoon.

I discovered the website Wordle and I’m slightly obsessed with it. Try it out. Below are a few of my poems…
Here’s my blog: