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January 16th, 2018

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.


After all, they did tell us this:

(That clip? Not Safe For Work. So, so Not Safe For Work.)



I reached the last page of my poetry notebook.

That spiral notebook started out as one I used for work, at the most recent desk job at CLEAResult. When I left that temp assignment, I tore out the work-related pages and had more pages, blank, waiting. A day after I'd ended that job, I started filling the notebook with poems, plus poetry exercises because I later borrowed Stephen Fry's The Ode Less Traveled, his book on writing poetry.

I've said it often these past two years: I'd missed writing poetry. I'm enjoying writing more of it. Last year, I decided that that Composition notebook (the same kind of notebook Patton Oswalt writes in) would be my next poetry notebook. More recently, I wondered what the last poem in the first one would be. It's "To Swim in Stars," which I finished and posted earlier. It seems like a good one to end on — I felt like any short poem I might put on that last page would seem silly right on the heels of the long one — so after I'd put up the poem, I drew a red line down the rest of that last page. Time to move on to the next. There's room for more words there.

Some of the words will be good ones. I am learning.