A deeper look into the cosmos

The Philadelphia Inquirer
December 29, 2003

The ancients began it, reaching up and out
with the warm arms of myth, naming their stars:
Aldebaran, Bellatrix, Arcturus, Rastaban, Rigel.
Characters in constellations, related, familiar.
On a winter night in the mountains, by a still lake,
the sky vaults weightless, vast and black.
A man stands on the shore, looks up,
and feels himself a thing insignificant,
flinging small words that absorb into the dark and vanish there.
And now we have built a better telescope,
lifting the cosmic veil like a curtain from a window
in a strange house on a dark night. The warm light
of family: witness the birth pangs of stars,
name a stellar nursery for the young ones.
How the eye creates what it sees, claims
intimacy with the incomprehensible,
weaves it into stories we can all understand.

Jennifer Snead

Jennifer Snead, director of the Kelly Writers House, teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania. She lives in Philadelphia.

This is the first in a year-end series of commissioned poems based on recent Inquirer headlines. The original headline and story appeared in The Inquirer Dec. 19 on page A33.