As a child I would often stare up into the night sky. The stars, the planets, at least the two I knew I could see. My parents didn’t think my behavior odd, they assumed I wanted to be a scientist and explore the universe. I let them believe this. It was far easier than explaining that the alternative was to sit in the living room with them and listen to them bicker about something so minor that happened that day, with no escape from their earthly prison.
It was the other evening,
the first of two this month, they say.
This only happens once in a blue moon
or a couple times every two or three years
and often twice in the same year.
So once in a blue moon isn’t that long
but she said she could feel its pull,
everything threatening to topple over
and she moved very cautiously.
I have to admit I didn’t feel very much,
but I come from the people for who
the lunar cycle is the norm, so the moon
really proceeds as it should, it’s face
having little to do with my time or tide.
The moon will be full again later this month
and I will pay careful attention
to what I’m certain I will not feel then.
In the elemental scheme of things
we humans are, at best, middling.
We are minute in the scale of the universe,
our time not even a glimmer, and
as we age, time contracts, but only
in the shortening forward direction.
But pity the poor hydrogen-7 isotope
whose life is likely over
in 30 yactoseconds, absorbing
the laughter of helium-5 living
on average, 33 times longer, and both
jealously, if ever so quickly
regarding our seemingly infinite span.
But lest we get complacent, there is
always zirconium-96 for whom
our life is but the blink of an eye,
barely worth noting, a second at most
in a span that could reach
twenty quintillion years, so we
are nothing special, save in our own eyes.
He had always wanted to be a scientist. He wasn’t particularly good at math, biology or any of the other sciences, but dreaming didn’t require that sort of aptitude. He imagined he was part of a great scientific breakthrough, something that would change man’s understanding of the universe and life itself. He knew such discoveries were few and far between, but they did happen, so he had a shot. Then, reading some science magazine he discovered his quest. He would find the God particle. He wasn’t sure what that was, but he knew it shouldn’t take a great mind and a magnifying glass to find a particle that looked somewhat like him.
We sit and discuss
complex viscosity values
and loss tangent ranges
throwing in relaxation modulus
for good measure,
but we end up at ratios,
slicing the data ever thinner,
until I fog over
and remember that today
is the first day of summer,
and the birds, bathing in the sun
play like children
from their winter bondage.
He asked her what she did, and
the question surprised her. Most
didn’t ask that until much later on,
but she replied, “I am a historian.”
He said, “Isn’t that an odd profession,”
quickly adding, “and I don’t mean for a woman.”
“It is,” she smiled, “but I fell in love
with history as a young girl,
and I’ve been fortunate to watch
stars being born and die, galaxies appear
as if from nowhere, seen events
that happened before our own sun was born.”
She could see he was confused, perhaps
that he thought her mad as others had.
She calmly added, “You understand,
I am an astronomer and all I see
is the history of our universe.”