Poetry at Sangam



FOR URANIA by Jim Schley

Muse of Cosmology

Ainigma, typographic cipher whose rhyme
      swivels steady but loose, eddy in a stream.
            You were actress then artist, made a poet

by catastrophe. Turned to words, in fact:
      when all’s said and gone, quivering across time,

and voluminous. Look: picture as a painter would
      blazing huts in a circular village, colonial settlement
            constructed orderly as the solar system.

Flames gorge on roofs and walls, books
      beloved in exodus, the smoke-vomiting fire
            round which orbits the hierarchy of patriarch,
                  matriarch, servant, and slave — a live

tableau inflected in the eyes of darker faces
            unseen beyond the edge of the trees.
                  Colonists torched the forests to harvest

pot ash. Artist, where’s your plot?
      A plot of ground, carbonous black.
            They dug from hillsides, mining lime

for metallurgy and to neutralize soils.
      Could paints convey the panoramic flux?
            But I fear I’ve melodramatized
                  your difficulty, made a pantomime

in didactic prose. By contrast, sublime
      evaporation yields your lines — dexterous
            textured thinking grasped as moveable type.
                  Not writer at a desk, but astronaut sprung by

photochemical combustion clear of the slime,
      projected over a globe whose reeling makes
            blurred and bleeding history, makes sense

now and then, astronomically perceived.
      Reader, so hesitant when unsure: terrified
            by new arrangements of familiar words
                  or unable to see constellations turn, not

around the polestar but Southern Cross. Prime
      numbers are essential. Prime words
            granted weight, flint-edged arrowheads,

could be runes to mark the demise
      of theologies we blithely inherited.
            New equations, cerebral but tense
                  with anguish, and spun on a dime

like a parabola distorted to reveal
      the flexed trajectory of a meteor
            through amnesias of darkened space
                  and laid upon charts for maritime

navigation. Perhaps when it’s seed-time
      the stars look arranged, dutifully arrayed,
            but at peak of drought in crop-blasting heat
                  who could do otherwise but scorn

thoughts of pattern? Flung like stellar wild thyme
      upon the slopes, ripped and burst into bloom
            then abandoned as rubbish whole galaxies wide.

If words can do justice, can do damage
      to that boredom even language will induce,
            isn’t it words knocked from mundane display,

now scrawled in radium with a half-life
      that instead of sliding down will climb?