Galaxy Zoo


Welcome, all, to the great Galactic Zoo;

countless galaxies will crowd your view now,

flashing and dashing in from all sides,

a hail of them, all shapes and size:

edge-on, needle spears of silvery-white,

fat and face-on plates of spiralled star-stuff

until soon they are all that you can see

and your PC screen is just a misted-over

window, stencilled with tiny little

pretty citadels of starlight…


Once inside our doors you’ll feel the pouring

of Time slow to a trickle then stop quite dead,

replaced by the endless, silent ebb

of blue- and red-shifted lenses past

your hypnotised, bleary eyes. I’ll warn you,

within the Zoo minutes become hours, hours

dash by like meteors until finally your brain will

crash and you’ll beg to be allowed to sleep. But even

there you’ll dream of what you’ve seen here

on your screen, delighting to the sight of galaxies

drifting past your eyes like snowflakes,

a blizzard of them, thick clouds and sweeping

banks of them, glittering and wafting and

tumbling on the cosmic breeze, each one surely

home to at least one species convinced

theirs is The Only One, the one all other galaxies

revolve around or are fleeing wildly from.


It’s so easy to skip onwards, onwards;

just click the mouse once more ‘til bored

with yet another misty maelstrom,

your eyes slowly glazing over at the sight

of all that gravity-frothed starlight swirled

and whirled into Catherine wheel curls

of creamy white and stained glass window blue…

but each one deserves from you at least

a minute’s pause, sixty seconds

of silent contemplation and respect.

Each subtle spiral or cumulo-stellar cloud

is very likely someone else’s Milky Way. Today

every galaxy you see, large or small

has seen mighty Empires rise and fall,

proud Cultures come and go like melting snow

flakes, fine and noble species have flowed

along and through its sun-strewn arms

and past its cluttered core.






So do not rush here, but hush your words

of condemnation for the less-than-lovely

galaxies you’ll see painted on your screen.

All are lanterns in a universe of darkness

and you can never know which glowing coal

in the cosmos’ crackling fire is home

to some exotic alien Zoo wanderer who,

looking at her own flat flickering screen has just seen

our Milky Way and casually click-clicked on her way

thinking “Nothing special…”


One thing is certain. “Does that one look like ours?”

you’ll wonder as you wander through the Zoo, searching for

a single perfect spiral snowflake hidden

within the pixelated haze of the Sloan Surveyed

sky, already knowing in your heart a perfect match

would be impossible to find.


But that won’t stop you looking…


© Stuart Atkinson 2007

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