Shining Rock Poetry Anthology

"The Night I Saw Saturn" by Alice Friman


Crossing the Pacific, flying backward

into perpetual night, and all night

one light on in the plane, a young man

beneath, scribbling. I am looking out

the window, the glass prism that shatters

the stars, and we at thirty thousand feet

not flying up but seemingly across

and headed straight toward it--Orpheus

of the night sky--the rock that sings.


What is he writing, that man

who can't sleep so doesn't even try,

stuck in an inner section, unable

to indulge in a window reverie, leaning

his head as I do against the glass?


The night I saw Saturn was because

I pleaded. Before I die I want to see...

and the astronomer complied, there

on the top of Mauna Kea, and me

shivering in all the clothes I had

and hanging on because I couldn't

see my feet, so dark it was as I set

my eye to the metal eyepiece. 

Then, true to the pictures in my

schoolbooks or the planetarium's

mockup, only luminous, radiating

more energy into space than received

from the sun. Ah Saturn, grandfather

of Love, what do scientists know

of the light that lights the pearl? Beauty's

absolute, cold white and burning in the sky.


And now, this man, the only light

in the plane, ringed by huddles of sleepers

as if he were guardian of the oblivious

awake for us all. How furiously

he bends to his work. How lovely

the light lingering on the shock of his hair

holds him--incandescent--reflecting in rings.  



Alice Friman's sixth full-length collection of poetry is The View from Saturn, LSU. She lives in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she is poet-in-residence at Georgia College.

Published with the permission of Louisiana State University Press. 




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