Science in meter and verse
Edited by Dava Sobel
That we need the sky
to tell us we don’t matter
is why, before totality,
we are so giddy and akimbo.
In its random masking,
how shall the Sun disclose its other light?
(We’ve not seen before.) And strange
air, dark and gray and silver
and soft and very precise,
emerges to pool around every
pore and shiver of skin.
Beneath our breathy hollers,
a river runs dark, sprays of pebble
-leaping riffles instantly aloft: Corona
crowns the south: Hole edged
with brimming sprays of light!
What is metaphor but secular alchemy?
Black flat sphere five degrees off the ecliptic
else each month we’d see
totality, normal as a door,
common as a starling.
Above the Little Lost River,
above the valley and its ranges,
above thrall, dumb totality.
And the Moon slips away, unseen, three
millimeters monthly and so on
etcetera till its visage will shirk this scene.
Orbits bloat. Eclipses are happenstance. Like us,
they’ll go extinct, the Moon to be
debris someday, a lovely
ring around a dead Earth.
But, ah, among the living: Crickets
at noon and humans hooting
with an owl, looking for
a gopher or at the light around the Moon:
Pink crust of flares like fire mountains,
like sleep to rub from the Cyclops’s eye
before his hot day at the forge. There is
light around the Moon: White
corona, a hand of streaming cilia
that warns and beckons. The rim brightens,
and fact makes terror wonderful.
This article was originally published with the title “Eclipse” in Scientific American 322, 3, 26 (March 2020)