Millennium Map of the Universe

by the National Geographic Society

It's a beautiful heaven, shining aqua
arrangements on black, scattered
chips of pure turquoise, gold, sterling
white, ruby sand; dimmer clouds
of glowing stellar dust; beads
like snow, like irregular pearls.

Last week, I thought this heaven was
god's body burning, as in the burning
bush never consumed, sudden flarings
of the omnipresence, the coal tips
of god's open hand, the brilliance of god's
streaming hair, the essence of grace
in flames, the idea of creation illuminated.
I believed each form of light and darkness
in that combustion was the glorious
art of god's body on fire, the only
possible origin of such art. Maybe god's
body remains invisible until it ignites
into its beginning. I could almost detect
the incense rising from that transfiguration.

But yesterday I believed it to be music,
the circling and spiraling of sound
in a pattern of light, a pattern I might
begin to perceive, each note, each count
and measure of the concert in progress
being visible, constellations of chords,
geysers of scales, the bell-like lyricism
of overlapping revolutions and orbits, deep
silent pauses of vacancy, as we might
expect, among the swells and trills,
the cacophony of timpani, the zinking
of strings. Yesterday this seemed
a reasonable thought, a pleasing
thought. It seemed possible.

Today, I see it is all signal numbers,
static and spate: the sun, 25,000 light-
years from the center of "our galactic
realm," around which we travel once
every 200 million years, you understand.
I don't resist the calculated mass of "our
supercluster." I don't deny those 100
trillion of our suns among which
we pass, turning over and over day
after night after day. The last "outpost"
in our cluster, before a desert cosmic
void begins, is named Virgo. I stop there
for rest and provisions, to water the horses,
pour oats in their trough, to cradle my child.

I wish I could sing like electrons
on a wheel. I wish I could burn
like god.

Pattiann Rogers

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