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
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