Billions of Light-years away a star death reaches us so bright wisemen might follow it
On March 19th, 2008 GRB 080319B was detected by the Swift space telescope – this Gamma Ray Burst (GRB) came from 7.5 billion light-years away and for 30 seconds was visible to the unaided human eye here on Earth. This makes it the furthest object ever visible to the human eye. It is also one of the brightest cosmic events ever recorded. GRBs are thought to herald the collapse or implosion of a star into a black hole or neutron star. GRB 080319B was detected just hours before the death of science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke (of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame, among many many other stories) and so it has been proposed that this GRB be called the Clarke Event. I don’t know if that has been made official, but it was an inspiration for my poem. Clarke wrote a story called The Star in 1955 and this story (SPOILER ALERT) features a supernova and mass extinction in a distant galaxy that becomes a key aspect of the Nativity here on Earth.
I’ve read multiple articles in the last year detailing the phenomenon of “pandemic organizing/decluttering/good-will-ing” – stuck at home day after day with all of our things, many people are finally deciding to tackle that home organization project they’d been putting off. Well, I finally succumb to the trend a few weeks ago and tackled a clean out of our spare room – this room houses my “studio space” ( = folding table shoved into one corner of the room). This hasn’t been good for new art production but it has been good for personal art archeology! I’ve been uncovering some lost/forgotten/unsent mail art in the last few weeks and thought I’d bring them back into the light. I hope everyone is staying safe and sane as we pass this one year anniversary of the pandemic.
It’s snowing nonstop on the moon over Central Park.
Pop rocks and soda fizz on my face as we go across
white blankets to a penthouse apartment I’ve never seen before.
Later, Jackie Kennedy and I wind up standing in
Joan Rivers’ guest bathroom – the one with the orange wallpaper.
Behind the faucet is a jar full to the top with silver dollars.
Hand on my shoulder, Jackie says Poor lady, she forgot to take them with her.
I originally published this illustrated poem almost exactly 6 years ago as part of a collaborative poetry event called The Full Moon Social – so it seemed a good one to pull from the archive for the full Snow Moon tonight. Joan Rivers had passed away a few months before and her death from complications from a minor surgical procedure had dominated the news cycle for a short time. A little of that coverage had seeped into my subconscious and surfaced as a dream that I worked into this poem.
A pleasant surprise across my WP Reader Dashboard – SJB Creates posted a video of Pandemic Postcard Exhibit at the Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center in Maryland. They had submitted some postcards and their cards are featured at around minute 10 of the video. I watched in anticipation, since I had submitted a card way back at the beginning of the pandemic (feels like 10 years ago now) and was thrilled to see my card around 1:30 of the video! The direct link to the Annmarie Sculpture garden is here. The video is a fantastic compilation of postcards from all over.
In 2020, Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center in Maryland invited all ages to send homemade postcards to be included an important community art exhibit. The goal was to collect and exhibit postcards from the community that express our feelings and share how we all coped during the social-distancing period of the COVID-19 crisis. I […]
The army trucks drive so near the children at play they see the men take their siblings away
Today is Red Hand Day – or the International Day Against the use of Child Soldiers – a U.N. observance to call attention to the use of child soldiers and children in war around the world and as a plea for it to stop. Much attention was paid a few years ago to the use of child soldiers in Uganda in the Lord’s Resistance Army (remember the Kony 2012 social media movement?), but worldwide, the use of children under 18 in military conflicts (both as soldiers and in “support” roles) happens mostly out of sight. Some articles on the U.N. day of observance noted that, although we tend to think of this as a problem of the developing world, historically, minors were used as soldiers in every “western” conflict up through World War II. I’d been struggling to write a short poem about this topic/observance until I read that perspective – it reminded me of Sarah Cleghorn’s poem about child labor, “The Golf Links.”
So with apologizes to Sarah Cleghorn, I modeled my little poem after hers. That historical connection also got me thinking about some common experiences we have here in the U.S. with minors and the military. While the U.S. military doesn’t allow minors to join its ranks any longer, military recruitment in U.S. high schools is routine and at least from my experience when I was in high school, could be rather aggressive. Family stories of a now grandfather or great uncle running away from home at 14 or 15 to join the navy or army are fairly common (I personally know of a few) and become part of a family’s origin story. It reminded me that the history of children (minors) in the military is not as distant in developed nations as we might like to think.
moon slice pie peeking we rush to see the comet before it fades
This transfer print was a bit of an experiment – when I was cleaning out my father’s house, I found a box of old tarnished ultra-thin silver leaf for gilding or embossing. I’m guessing my Dad got this at a garage sale or the like since he does not do anything (hobby or past career-wise) that would require books of silver leaf. I saved the box and decided to see if I could transfer print onto one of the leaves. There was some trial and error (still ongoing) but it more or less worked! The scan of the piece doesn’t do the texture and light quality justice. It’s been almost a year since I’ve gone out stargazing in the desert and I miss it. This poem (a haiku in syllables if not form) was inspired by the times we’ve been racing to beat the moonrise and set up telescopes and cameras in order to see or photograph something astronomical.
snow covered the ground like milk the sun was a red crescent a chili pepper spicing the air with a baby’s cry
Wilbur Scoville was born on January 22, 1865 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. A pharmacist by training, he wrote a celebrated pharmacy textbook and won many awards for his research – but he is best remembered for devising the Scoville Scale, which is still in use today for measuring the spiciness or heat of chili peppers. One could argue he made possible such things as chili pepper eating contests and our cultural awareness of different kinds of peppers and their spice levels. It is interesting to think of the effect that the attempt to quantify something has on our perception of it!
I hope that everyone had a safe and happy holiday season and that 2021 will turn a corner and get better! The start of the year was a bit sluggish for me in returning to making art and posting here – I had some potential COVID exposures at work and daycare. It turned out okay and neither myself nor anyone else in either place tested positive or got sick thanks to protocols in place and strategic closures. But it does devour all of one’s mental energy.
I have a new post going up on Friday and the theme of the upcoming post reminded me of this one, a fun haiku by Tricia Knoll. She is a very active Vermont-based poet and you can see all her upcoming events and poems at her website: triciaknoll.com
Original text of the post: “This haiku puts a grin on my face every time I read it. And it never fails to launch me on an extended trip down memory lane as well – from the greenhouse in my grandparents’ backyard to one I visited once in Iceland. I consider this one of the superpowers of the haiku: they are a reservoir of memories stored in present tense words. Ms. Tricia Knoll is an award-winning poet working and living in Portland, Oregon. Her website, triciaknoll.com, has more of her wonderful haiku as well as links to many of her published poems and books – I definitely recommend a visit! Painting (acrylic on cardboard), digital collage, and composition by me. Have a wonderful weekend!”
Looking back through the archives, I found that I posted this acrylic painting/haiku pairing almost exactly 5 years ago (Dec. 19th, 2015). At the time I was working through some exercises in a color mixing book, so much of the painting I was doing was abstract and focused on the colors. This translated haiku also reflects my house cleaning aesthetic – and I’ve read we are all falling behind on chores and cleaning even as we spend much more time at home (and therefore have a dirtier house) due to the pandemic.
Original post is below the read more tag. I wish everyone happy and safe holidays!
the ether swirled behind her eyes “It’s a girl,” the midwife said lamplight flickered in the window the new mother smiled, “My daughter will count the stars, call them each by name one by one.”
My history poem today is in honor of the birth of Annie Jump Cannon on December 11, 1863. Ms. Cannon became famous as an astronomer who pioneered the Harvard Classification System for stellar bodies – a system that is still in use today. She was also a pioneer for women at Harvard and in astronomy. She manually classified an astounding 350,000 stars in her lifetime – a number that is still a record. Her career in astronomy lasted more than 40 years and later included numerous honorary doctorate degrees from top universities – often from universities that didn’t admit women in the 1880’s when she was attending college. The Annie Jump Cannon Award is still presented by the American Astronomical Society each year to an outstanding early career female astronomer.
I wish everyone a good weekend – stay safe and healthy out there!