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To Swim in Stars
by Christopher Walsh, 1/01/2018-1/16/2018

Parts of the universe are thick with light.
Clusters of suns, gravity-bonded
And gravity-bonding,
Hold their swirling worlds and meteors and comets and unaffiliated dust
In what look like endless loops.
In places, planets form.
We finally confirmed that: science proved
That worlds are not an accident of our own sun.
The math of star-forming and planet-forming
Works, it seems, everywhere.
Someday, it may be surprising to find a place where it doesn't.
Rocks can turn to ground, gas can turn to air,
Accreting and coalescing
Into a place where life is possible.
The energy of just one small star
Was enough to create the foundation of Earth.
Conditions in star clusters have their own variables,
Gravity pulling from more close suns than what we have,
Complicating how anything else pulls together,
And yet, pull together, things might.
Look at Pleiades,
The knot of stars Sappho may have gazed at,
And picture a planet within it:
Far younger, millions of years old instead of billions,
Still a molten, rocky riot impossible to stand on
— So be near it, instead —
Look in all directions away from it:
Seems and feels like all the light,
Stark there,
Filtered through wisps of interstellar dust there,
Far older dust, left behind,
Which the cluster is simply passing through.
So much of the light blue-tinged:
More blue, too, than you think there could be,
Almost more blue than you can process,
As well as the all-black of the background beyond those nearest stars.
You see past and through the Pleiades.
You see more, beyond the nearest light.
Cosmically, in relative terms we can only partly understand,
The cluster won't be there long.
Gravity and tidal forces and simple movement and time
Will pull it apart.
We can understand enough of all this
Through math.
Math, in its way, is beautiful.
Stars end. Clusters end. Galaxies do.
That particular pool of light will end.
Any planets there may just keep going,
Turning rogue,
Growing near as cold as cold can get.
But much light will replace any such lost light.
The end of light will happen
On a near-unimaginable time scale.
The heat-death of the universe: a hell of a thing to think about.
For now, for then,
For future times,
We keep seeing the light:
From near (our sun)
From not far (the Pleiades)
From farther (Andromeda)
From so far we have trouble measuring except in time:
"This light started ten billion years ago," we can sometimes say.
Much of the far future will still be full of light,
Simply light which we'll never see.
The energy of the cosmos
Outlives us all.
Energy is as big as the universe.
And energy brings us light.