Tuesday, September 22, 2009

the bow of the ship

I began this poem during my month-long sojourn as visiting scientist on the MacArthur II in 2006. Three years later, as I'm working up plankton data from that and many other cruises, seemed a good time to finish and post it.

~

The bow of the ship is sacred on moonless nights.
You stumble up there, drunk with artificial lights,
and sway in the darkness--clinging, staring, blind.
Moment by moment, you are sobered by the black,
until your appetite diminishes. You find
that single photons from long-gone supernovas
are enough to satisfy you. If you look back,
an open porthole seems obscenely bright:
a gluttony.

Best if your voyage takes you far beyond
where city glow demarcates the horizon.
Here nothing separates sky from sea, save
the abrupt absence of stars.
                                             Or not. You see
a luminescent soup, a swarm, in every wave!
They are tiny, these planktonic supernovas,
their lifespans shorter than any star or galaxy.
But to your light-thirsty eyes, they are the same:
a single sip.

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