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On a Firefly Night in 1959

in a meadow at Camp Mitigwa, I saw Saturn
through the tube of a telescope—that old gassy giant
reduced to the size of a tiny ivory Buddha,
a white belt around his plump belly.
They say when you look into the soul of space
you travel back in time, so what appeared on the far side
of the glass were flecks of sunlight that ricocheted
off the ammonia clouds a little over an hour ago.
If I had a telescope today that could find objects further out,
say 13.8 billion light-years away, perhaps I’d see
the hand of God strike the fuse, which set off the Bomb,
which split Singularity into the Four Smithereens
that rule the universe and gave birth to these stars—
from the cities, to the suburbs, to the boondocks of the Milky Way,
where a vagabond pebble was skipped into motion, rocked in the arms
of a yellow dwarf that fed Silurian ferns and warmed old rivers,
where on a strange and humid morning, a curious fish
crawled up to a muddy shore, trading fins for legs
and gills for lungs, then scales to feathers, then feathers to fur,
then fur to a crew cut on a boy in a meadow at Camp Mitigwa
looking at Buddha through the tube of a telescope
on a firefly night in 1959.

26 Sep 13

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This has some interesting ideas and lines in it. Lines which I've really liked on my first reading.

I'm hooked right through from line 1 to line 14 .. and then Bam! you go and floor me with lines 15 and 16 .. simply impressive writing. Gorgeous thinking.

Just beautiful images, theme and delivery of idea, and a deliciously creative use of the word Silurian - which I'm sure you know has a double meaning, making it quite possibly the tastiest morsel in this lexicon buffet.

From line 17 I can tell you're sort of pushing this into a direction, but it does feel a little forced rather than fluid, though it still conveys the internal idea .. which is beautifully circular - in both theme and poetic form.

Two small nit to pick, though.

White and ivory aren't quite the same thing, but they convey similar properties, and being so close together it seemed to visually trip up a little there... in my mind, at least ..

.. and, I don't think you need the last line hanging there. It's not a punchline but an integral part, hence the title.
It's up to you, of course, but perhaps try the last line integrated into the final stanza? :)

Great poem, great read. Love it.
 — jenn

Love the fourth and fifth stanzas especially, which is a good thing as I find this type of poem usually loses strength at the end - though this doesn't, and if anything, picks up. A great narrative spiked with nostalgia, top work.
 — Silvermire

jenn, thanks for your critique. The poem is based on an actual experience when I was a boy scout. I can still see that image after 50 plus years.

I wrote this last summer, and every so often I return to tweak it a tad...then again to tweak it back to what it was before...then again to revise the revision. We've all been there, right? Makes me appreciate what Paul Valéry meant when he said, “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” Or something like that.

Re. the color difference between Saturn’s ivory body and white rings. I’m hoping that, at 900 million miles away, no one else took notice.

Re. Silurian. Other than the reptilian humanoid race from Dr. Who, have I missed another meaning?

Re. L17. You’re right. I am starting to push into a new direction. In fact, I’m making a U-turn to get the reader back from those good old Devonian days to 1959. It’s nice to know the maneuver didn’t send you flying out the passenger door.

As for the final line? Perhaps you’re right. I’ve made the change you suggested and will let it stare back at me for awhile.

I appreciate you taking the time to offer your comments.
 — clupeidae

Thank you as well, Silvermire.
 — clupeidae

clupeidae, my friend.
This is 1959: A Space Odyssey. A really wonderful piece.
For me, you capture the beauty of space and nostalgia and love
in a few delicate and masterful lines.
 — 9

Just had to do a little look to make sure my Silurian info was correct, which (phew) it was.

The Paleozoic era's Silurian period was some 430/440 million years ago which was an extremely important and active period of time for life on Earth. Read up on it, it's good stuff and still works perfectly with your use of Silurian in the poem.

Interesting you also mention Devonian, I'm assuming you mean the county of Devon, but interestingly enough the period right after the Silurian period was called the Devonian period.
I think you're having having a subliminal convergence of ideas, haha!

No, the poem from line 17 didn't have me flung from the passenger seat, lines 15 and 16 are the beautiful seat-belt keeping me firmly in place.

For me the final line works so much better. I know many poets want to leave the last line hanging out there to emphasise it, to really make it leave an impression, but it does anyway. It's the thematic cycle throughout.

.. and yeh, you're right... 900 millions miles is quite far enough away for none to notice :)
 — jenn

none = no one
 — jenn

"I think you're having having a subliminal convergence of ideas, haha!"

Not the first time. And it won't be the last. :)
 — clupeidae