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
er,
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?
2
I was a stranger on earth.
Stepping on the moon, I begin
the gay pilgrimage to new
Jerusalems
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.



Monday (Love your Body!) Musings

Today is officially “Love Your Body Day.” I like this idea. I fall into the same trap as many women who get down on themselves because of the way they look. I’ve recently (and by recently I mean like a week ago) decided that I need to get over it. I go to the gym and I eat pretty healthy but I need to stop freaking out when I have a piece of chocolate or eat some french fries. The reality of the matter is we live in an imperfect world, so to try to be perfect is ridiculous. I’m over it. Health is what is important. Thanks to SB for bringing this to my attention.

Here is a link to the site and lots of neat information.

I’m ordering these for my office:

_______________________________________________________________________

Here is your autumn poem for the week. I’ve decided that at the end of October I’m going to move onto another “theme.”

Hornworm: Autumn Lamentation
Since that first morning when I crawled
into the world, a naked grubby thing,
and found the world unkind,
my dearest faith has been that this
is but a trial: I shall be changed.
In my imaginings I have already spent
my brooding winter underground,
unfolded silky powdered wings, and climbed
into the air, free as a puff of cloud
to sail over the steaming fields,
alighting anywhere I pleased,
thrusting into deep tubular flowers.

It is not so: there may be nectar
in those cups, but not for me.
All day, all night, I carry on my back
embedded in my flesh, two rows
of little white cocoons,
so neatly stacked
they look like eggs in a crate.
And I am eaten half away.

If I can gather strength enough
I’ll try to burrow under a stone
and spin myself a purse
in which to sleep away the cold;
though when the sun kisses the earth
again, I know I won’t be there.
Instead, out of my chrysalis
will break, like robbers from a tomb,
a swarm of parasitic flies,
leaving my wasted husk behind.

Sir, you with the red snippers
in your hand, hovering over me,
casting your shadow, I greet you,
whether you come as an angel of death
or of mercy. But tell me,
before you choose to slice me in two:
Who can understand the ways
of the Great Worm in the Sky?

Stanley Kunitz

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Some of the “Best of…” from Poetry Out Loud.

Toni Morrison’s new novel to coming soon…