Hide and Seek with Holmes


I walked to work that day beneath

the burning amber spark of Mars;

shining high behind the marmalade sky

Venus blazed lantern-bright too,

an ice-encrusted diamond firefly

flashing violet as night fled the scene,

and with green and blue hues appearing

along the Kent’s steep banks, dawn

crept silently over the high eastern fields, gently

feeling its way towards the Auld Grey Town.

No sounds, only the singing of the silver sky

and the whumping flap of a heron’s

black-trimmed wings: another day beginning

as I scrunched my way through fallen

golden leaves, crunchy as cornflakes

beneath my frosted boots.


Unknown to me, even

as I walked beside the river’s winding

way, far far out in space

a comet was bursting into life,

its feeble, faerie light flaring

brighter by the hour, powerful

forces shaking and breaking its icy

crust, releasing dust and gas to crash

out in a golden lamp-shade shell,

and halfway round the Earth –

in those vast eastern lands where

the sunrise had already warmed

the faces of a billion souls – cold

skywatchers had stared wide-eyed at Perseus’

starry thigh and seen a new “star”

shining there, piercing even the glare

of a will-be-Full-soon Moon.


The word spread swiftly west; emails,

phone calls, telegrams and texts

alerting all who love and know the sky

to turn their tired eyes east at sunset

and search for Comet Holmes’ shy glow –


         but for days after that dawn my Cumbrian sky

remained a stubborn, sullen shade of grey

and I feared another “Comet of The Year”

had come and gone without its light

entering my impatient eyes. Four long nights

of sighing followed; staring,

glaring at the heavens hidden behind

a cowl of clotted cloud until finally

the star-flecked firmament appeared,

stars peering through a tattered

rip torn between great plates of grey –

and there she was: an out-of-focus

speck, a fleck of cosmic candy-floss

floating far beyond Mars.


“Gotcha,” I smiled, swinging the ‘scope

around. Magnified a quarter of a hundred

times the comet was a cloud; round

as a bleached blood cell, yellow-white,

a jelly fish beached on the bright starry sands

of the Milky Way’s long shore.

“I’ve never seen anything like you before,”

I whispered as the comet’s new light

bathed my upturned face, the grace

and beauty of the universe amazing me

yet again.


© Stuart Atkinson 2007

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