Still Working on Astronomy Poems

This was written about fifteen years ago–I just re-typed it as it is too old to be on this computer. It was enjoyable to re-visit it. My favorite part is the last stanza, because it is the most meaningful to me, the most direct message to look within. It was published in my book MAP OF THE LOST (UNM Press).

Pluto in Riverside

The scale model of the solar system
Spreads across greater Boston
Starts with the sun in the Museum of Science
Mercury in the lobby
Venus on the top floor of the parking garage
Earth outside the Royal Sonesta Hotel
Mars in Lechmere’s Galeria
Where patrons might sip a cappuccino
Jupiter at South Station where the trains depart
With the romantic expectation of arrival
Saturn in the Cambridge Public Library
With Uranus in the branch on Jamaica Plain
And Neptune—across traffic and congestion—
Rests in a mall in Saugus. We don’t really have the time
To spend all day crossing city and crowded suburb
And not in all this rain.
Still, I wanted to see at least one—
Pluto is in Riverside, not that far
From where we’re staying—the smallest furthest plane
At the end of the line.

We start at the diner in Waltham
Over eggs and middle-aged conversation
With your old friends, coffee, home fries
Our parents, our children’s lives
Somehow eclipsing our own
As if or goal were just to survive
And hold up our portion of the human race
Although a different look might cross a face—
Flirtation, memory of romance or anticipation
There’s life in us yet, for God’s sake.
The moment passes, pass the ketchup, salt
The economy is tanked, the government,,,
And do we really know?
And should we stay or go?

We pay the bill, it’s freezing
Everyone agrees,
Sure, we’ll go see Pluto
In the station, at the end of the trolley line.
It’s free, and tiny, this side of the turnstile
I’m disappointed, I’d expected…what?
Something bigger than my thumbnail
A potato-shaped asteroid of a planet
Or maybe its moon, Charon
Or some vision
Of its atmosphere at perihelion
A trans-Neptunian object
Hard to see with an amateur telescope.
There is no tenth planet.

Pluto is named for Hades, king of the dead.
As a kid, I liked that story
Demeter and Persephone
The daughter out picking flowers
Long skirt, long hair, picking anemones
Petaled purple and red.
Then Hades breaks through the crust of the earth
On his black horse, and carries her down
Into the underworld.
At thirteen, I wanted to be snatched
Longing for someone bad to come along
Grab me out of my mother’s white-shingled house
Where she’d yell
“11:30! Don’t forget your curfew!”
Down to Hell I’d go
Amethyst cave, the dead with coins on their eyes
Where blind fish swim through the dry of limestone
Hades, bad boyfriend, I just knew he was coming.
I put my ear to the earth and urged him on.

Half a lifetime later
I dream of my mother’s city, this Boston
Its subway lines and trolley
Where I stand on a platform in a vast space
And when the train pulls in I rush to ask
The dark gentleman in the three-piece suit
“Is this train in or out bound?”
And he answers, before the doors swish shut
And the train drops underground
“Everything here is inbound.”

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well ( The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

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