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The Observatory Ode - John Frederick Nims

Ode to Spot
Unknown

Felis Catus is your taxonomic nomenclature
An endothermic quadruped, carnivorous by nature.
Your visual, olfactory, and auditory senses,
Contribute to your hunting skills, and natural defenses.

I find myself intrigued, by your subvocal oscillations,
A singular development of cat communications
That obviates your basic hedonistic predilection,
For a rhythmic stroking of your fur, to demonstrate affection.

A tail is quite essential, for your acrobatic talents.
You would not be so agile, if you lacked its counterbalance.
And when not being utilized to aid in locomotion,
If often serves to illustrate, the state of your emotion.

Oh Spot, the complex levels of behavior you display,
Connote a fairly well-developed cognitive array,
And though you are not sentient, and do not understand,
I nonetheless consider you, a true, and valued, friend.

The Observatory Ode
John Frederick Nims

I
The Universe:
We'd like to understand,
But any piece, in the palm, gets out of hand,
Any stick, any stone,
- How mica burns! - or worse,
Any star we catch in pans of glass,
Sift to a twinkle the vast nuclear stone,
Lava-red, polar-blue,
Apple-gold (noon our childhood knew),
Colors that through the prism, like dawn through Gothic, pass,
Or in foundries sulk among grots and gnomes, in glare of zinc or brass.
Would Palomar's flashy cannon say? Would you,
Old hourglass, galaxy of sand,
You, the black hole where Newton likes to stand?
II
Once on this day,
Our Victorian renaissance-man,
Percival Lowell - having done Japan,
And soon to be seen
Doing over all heaven his way -
Spoke poems here. (These cheeks, a mite
Primped by the laurel leaves' symbolic green,
Should glow like the flustered beet
To scuff, in his mighty shoes, these feet.)
He walked high ground, each long cold Arizona night,
Grandeurs he'd jot: put folk on Mars, but guessed a planet right,
Scribbling dark sums and ciphers at white heat
For his Pluto, lost. Till - there it swam!
Swank, with his own P L monogram.
III
Just down the way
The Observatory. And girls
Attending, with lint of starlight in their curls,
To lens, 'scope, rule.
Sewing bee, you could say:
They stitch high heaven together here,
Save scraps of the midnight sky. Compile, pole, pool.
One, matching star with star,
Learns that how bright can mean how far.
That widens the galaxies! Each spiraling chandelier
In three-dimensional glamour hangs; old flat nights disappear.
Desk-bound, they explore the immensities. Who are
These woman that, dazed at dusk, arise?
- No Helen with so much heaven in her eyes.
IV
With what good night
Did the strange women leave?
What did the feverish planet-man achieve?
A myth for the sky:
All black. Then a haze of light,
A will-o'-the-wisp, hints time and place.
Whirling, the haze turned fireball, and let fly
Streamers of bright debris,
The makings of our land and sea.
Great rafts of matter crash, their turbulence a base
For furnaces of nuclear fire that blast out slag in space.
Primal pollution, dust and soot, hurl free
Lead, gold - all that. Heaven's gaudy trash.
This world - with our joy in June - is a drift of ash.
V
That fire in the sky
On the Glorious Fourth, come dark,
Acts "Birth of the Universe" out, in Playland Park.
Then a trace of ash
In the moon. Suppose we try
- Now only suppose - to catch in a jar
That palmful of dust, on bunsens burn till it flash,
Could we, from that gas aglow,
Construct the eventful world we know,
Or a toy of it, in the palm? Yet our world came so: we are
Debris of a curdled turbulence, and dust of a dying star
- The children of nuclear fall-out long ago.
No wonder if late world news agree
With Eve there's a creepy varmint in the Tree.
VI
The Universe:
...Such stuff as dreams are made on...
Yet stuff to thump, to call a spade a spade on.
No myth - Bantu,
Kurd, Urdu, Finnish, Erse -
Had for the heaven such hankering
As ours, that made new eyes for seeing true.
For seeing what we are:
Sun-bathers of a nuclear star,
Scuffling through curly quarks - mere fact a merry thing!
Then let's, with the girls and good P.L., sing carols in a ring!
Caution: combustible myth, though. Near and far
The core's aglow. Ho heat like this,
No heat like science and poetry when they kiss.

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