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.