Tracy K. Smith‘s collection of poetry, Life on Mars, is seriously amazing. It won a Pulitzer, but that’s not why it’s amazing. This collection has been described as a kind of extended meditation on her father’s death. Her father was one of the engineers who worked on the Hubble telescope, and she uses “Mars” and space exploration as a metaphor throughout. This book is full of sci-fi references as well, which appeals to this geek in me, and I admire how seamlessly she blends sci-fi pop culture into a very artistic consideration of birth, death, and life. It’s a really fabulous collection, and it’s nearly impossible to choose a favorite to share with you today. So this is not my favorite, because they’re all my favorite. This is a section of a longer poem. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you go find this whole book (it’s short, like most non-anthology poetry books) and read it. You will be delighted and edified. (PS Don’t forget to leave a comment so you can be entered in the poetry giveaway!)
from My God, It’s Full of Stars
Perhaps the great error is believing we’re alone,
That the others have come and gone–a momentary blip–
When all along, space might be choc-full of traffic,
Bursting at the seams with energy we neither feel
Nor see, flush against us, living, dying, deciding,
Setting solid feet down on planets everywhere,
Bowing to the great stars that command, pitching stones
At whatever are their moons. They live wondering
If they are the only ones, knowing only the wish to know,
And the great black distance they–we–flicker in.
Maybe the dead k now, their eyes widening at last,
Seeing the high beams of a million galaxies flick on
At twilight. Hearing the engines flare, the horns
Not letting up, the frenzy of being. I want it to be
One notch below bedlam, like a radio without a dial.
Wide open, so everything floods in at once.
And sealed tight, so nothing escapes. Not even time,
Which should curl in on itself and loop around like smoke.
So that I might be sitting now beside my father
As he raises a lit match to the bowl of his pipe
For the first time in the winter of 1959.