What matters most? It’s a foolish question because I’m hanging on,
just like you. No, I’m past hanging on. It’s after midnight and I’m falling
toward four a.m., the best time for ghosts, terror, and lost hopes.
No one says anything of significance to me. I don’t care if the President’s
a two year old, and the Vice President’s four. I don’t care if you’re
cashing in your stocks or building homes for the homeless.
I was a caring person. I would make soup and grow you many flowers.
I would enter your world, my hands open to catch your tears,
my lips on your lips in case we both went deaf and blind.
But I don’t care about your birthday, or Christmas, or lover’s lane,
or even you, not as much as I pretend. Ah, I was about to say,
“I don’t care about the stars” — but I had to stop my pen.
Sometimes, out in the silent black Wisconsin countryside
I glance up and see everything that’s not on earth, glowing, pulsing,
each star so close to the next and yet so far away.
Oh, the stars. In lines and curves, with fainter, more mysterious
designs beyond, and again, beyond. The longer I look, the more I see,
and the more I see, the deeper the universe grows.
I have a long way to go, and I’m starting now —
out in the silent black Wisconsin countryside.
“Stars” by Freya Manfred, from Swimming with a Hundred Year Old Snapping Turtle. © Red Dragonfly Press, 2008.
by Jim Harrison
When my propane ran out
when I was gone and the food
thawed in the freezer I grieved
over the five pounds of melted squid,
but then a big gaunt bear arrived
and feasted on the garbage, a few tentacles
left in the grass, purplish white worms.
O bear, now that you’ve tasted the ocean
I hope your dreamlife contains the whales
I’ve seen, that one in the Humboldt current
basking on the surface who seemed to watch
the seabirds wheeling around her head.
The Poetry Teacher
by Mary Oliver
The university gave me a new, elegant
classroom to teach in. Only one thing,
they said. You can’t bring your dog.
It’s in my contract, I said. (I had
made sure of that.)
We bargained and I moved to an old
classroom in an old building. Propped
the door open. Kept a bowl of water
in the room. I could hear Ben among
other voices barking, howling in the
distance. Then they would all arrive—
Ben, his pals, maybe an unknown dog
or two, all of them thirsty and happy.
They drank, they flung themselves down
among the students. The students loved
it. They all wrote thirsty, happy poems.
News about the government shut-down flames on, day-in, day-out. And so it should: Lives are under siege and, though it sounds hyperbolic to say, the advance of civilization as we know it has stumbled to a halt and our government has crumpled to its knees.
I will tell you about my small grief: NASA’s Astronomical Photograph of the Day (apod.nasa.gov/apod/) service has shut down and is defunct. I often look at the site to marvel at the photographs and read about our fellow planets with whom we circle the sun, the fly-by asteroids in our galactic neighborhood, and the stars that populate our night skies (though only occasionally seen here in cloudy Seattle).
In memory of the amazing and truly extraordinary APOD website, and with the hope that it will be resurrected very shortly, I offer this photo of the Pleides (from National Geographic) and this poem (Country Stars by William Meredith).
I ask that the wisdom of the universe, always available to us in one form or another whether mathematical or mysterious, inform the thinking of our elected officials as they forge ahead with all of our lives in the balance.