Banishing Pluto


I can hear them talking outside my door,

stalking in their new, shrunken

solar system’s shadows,

hoping I don’t know they’re there,

daring each other to be

The One who Knocks and

breaks the news to me:

my old planetary identity has

been wiped away, replaced

by something smaller, feebler,

and given grudgingly at that,

sentencing me to exile in

the icy wastes of the Great

Out There.


Surprise, surprise, no-one wants to take

the knife and stab me in my back personally

after their 80 years of flattery

and false colour declarations

of devoted love. Demoted now,

a planet no longer, I’d be lying if I said

I wasn’t bitter; no quitter I,

I always tried to be the world

Clyde wanted me to be.

I thought I was safe! After all,

around me three moons loyally swooned –

Ha, shows how much I knew! Their fine

committee has decreed beloved Charon to be

nothing but a mere near neighbour,

declared that all we had in common

all along was a barren barycentre.


Listen to them arguing!

Flinging blame, claiming they

had never really wanted to wrench

away my hard-won title;

that they’d felt all long I was entitled

to the same respect as Sol’s

other whirling worlds! What weasel words!

I heard them call me cruel names,

blaming the inferior eyes of those

sepia-toned stargazers for giving me more credit

than my size and style deserves.

But most bizarre of all, some seem to

truly believe they’re showing me a kindness,

being merciful, delivering me from

the misery of my celestial self-delusion;

by taking away my name, and claim

to planetary fame they feel they do me good,

pull me back to reality

where Copernicus’ runts know their place

and only real, grown-up planets pace

patiently around the Sun.


So what grim fate awaits me now?

Banishment, from the crumpled maps and charts

that children hunch over in their rooms

as science project deadlines loom;

exile from the Sun’s grand mansion,

thrown onto the KBO-hobo littered street

to seek a new life for myself

on a dusty shelf in the IAU’s

spare room, dumped there like some

tasteless piece of memorabilia

from an older, embarrassing age.


But the rage I feel at being

reduced from true ice world to “dwarf planet”

will never go away! Make up your minds!

Am I a planet or am I not?

If not then do not use that precious

word to describe me for it is cruel!

Under your petty rules

then your so-beloved Neptune

and Jupiter should be exiled too;

tumbling Trojan rocks and rubble

trail and lead Jove as he rolls around

the Sun, and why, when cerulean Neptune’s

orbit intersects with mine am only I

cast out from the light?


As for the precious Homeworld,

Earth’s “area” has not been cleared of clutter

any more than mine! Jagged Atens,

Apollos and Amors jostle as they fire

like tracer rounds ‘cross Terra’s bows,

so how exactly does her rock-saturated,

swooping path around the Sun not sentence her

to exile in the Kingdom of the Dwarves?


Shame on you, shame on you all

for all those years of lies.

True, my size may be suspiciously small,

and my orbit I’ll admit is unconventional,

more drawn-out loop than perfect ratio ring –

and yes I swoop first high above then fall

far below  the plane in which my surviving

solar siblings play.

But why exile me for that?


You think that with your clapping hands

and silly, flapping cards you voted me

out of existence; that now I am

“no more”, a mere bad memory banished

to the far shore of this solar system

but you are wrong, and when your tiny,

metal flea buzzes by me in 2015 you’ll see

how cruel you were.

When my craters and canyons fill

its cameras’ field of view,

and images of my frost-bright, ice-white

landscapes fill the pages of the papers

that so gleefully decreed me dead

you’ll lift your heads to the starry sky

and sigh “We were wrong, it was

a planet all along…”


© Stuart Atkinson 2006

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