Two poems about space-watching from Dark Matter, an anthology co-edited by Jocelyn Bell-Burnell
Lovell Radio Telescope, Jodrell Bank
by Jean Sprackland
Clouds scan it at a careful pace,
absorbing its data until they’re saturated.
They roll over the fields
and let some of it fall raining on the grass.
It runs into the earth
with a soft desolate sound.
There’s a quiet here, like intelligence
The cows have a look of wounded surprise
from eating the clever grass,
full of knowledge they don’t know how to use.
The buttercups are a special shade of yellow,
unnaturally bright with information.
The trees are more attentive.
Insects make thoughtful moves like chess pieces
Those clouds are pure whipped memory;
they read and count and store without understanding.
Behind them, a blue which is really darkness
reeling with a million clumsy signals.
We Are Listening
by Diane Ackerman
As our metal eyes wake
to absolute night,
where whispers fly
from the beginning of time,
we cup our ears to the heavens.
We are listening
on the volcanic rim of Flagstaff
and in the fields beyond Boston
in a great array that blooms
like coral from the desert floor,
on highwire webs patrolled
by computer spiders in Puerto Rico.
we are listening for a sound
beyond us, beyond sound,
searching for a lighthouse
in the breakwaters of our uncertainty,
an electronic murmur,
a bright, fragile I am.
Small as tree frogs
staking out one end
of an endless swamp,
we are listening
through the longest night
we imagine, which dawns
between the life and times of stars.
Our voice trembles
with its own electric,
we who mood like iguanas,
we who breathe sleep
for a third of our lives,
we who heat food
to the steaminess of fresh prey,
then feast with such
good manners it grows cold.
In mind gardens
and on real verandas
we are listening,
rapt among the Persian lilacs
and the crickets,
while radio telescopes
roll their heads, as if in anguish.
With our scurrying minds
and our lidless will
and our lank, floppy bodies
and our galloping yens
and our deep, cosmic loneliness
and our starboard hearts
where love careens,
we are listening,
the small bipeds
with the giant dreams.