Nels Hanson 

 

     

 

     

            After Copernicus 

 

                                                                       

In shielded safe within a lead-lined box placed

by darkest night down deepest shaft of Earth’s

most penetrating mine the golden light emitted

 

powerful rays attracting wings, a thousand owls,

bats diving blind through waves of Gypsy moths

thick as starlings so men wearing black-visored

 

helmets lifted with crane the container weighing

tons but holding less than one full pound of flesh.

Dogs and deer chased a special lead-tarped truck

 

rushing to fast ship waiting just in case, destroyer

pursued by barking seals and steaming for South

Pacific, the Mariana Trench, murky floor thirty-five

 

thousand feet below the surface, mile deeper

than Everest is high. On dazzling TV screens we

watched square cargo fall like streaking shooting

 

star into water flaring to cyclone of light as navy dark

sea turned palest turquoise green of shallow

ocean inside island reefs. Alarms, sonar warning

 

horns blared, from every compass point arrived

fish and whales, sharks with jaws clamped tight

overtaking blue tuna schools, dolphins racing for

 

abandoned gold. Light kept propagating, rings of

tsunami tides threatening to set ablaze the globe’s

dull shores. Coiling miles of cable the craft sailed 

 

tepidly through milling terrapin, rare giant squid,

transparent jellies with luminescent clouds adrift

in clear-domed skies, prow parting brimming life

 

as slow arctic breakers prod trails in ice. Pharaoh’s

Ship of the Sun voyaging, great bonfire on a royal

raft rowed by ghostly oarsmen, the Grateful Dead?

 

India and Africa abaft, Atlantic to Cape Canaveral

hull like a sieve shed piercing glow, armored hold

a hedgehog’s ball of yellow spines. Veteran crew

 

in asbestos suits, hoods of executioners, welders’

goggles transferred the package to puffing rocket

blasting now for space, circle of its burners’ fire

 

eclipsed by shine of missile’s payload until stars,

moon dimmed and already morning came. Over

shocked horizons crazed suns born prematurely?

 

After days becoming weeks a constellated night

returned, at last the flaming heart appearing one

noon from who knows where why no one knows

 

was bound into the void and we were saved, no

longer vulnerable to burning passion of love to

only live for love as each heart ignites in single

 

self-consuming flash light years brighter than all

exploding novas and Dark Ages late our planet

illumines a universe in perfect order circling us.

 

 

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