While I was sound asleep the solar
system shifted silently around me,
its boundary pulsing,
rushing outward in a tsunami
of science and Sobel-graceful plans
that wrenched the much-loved two page
maps from every space-mad schoolkid’s hands
and ripped them to confetti.
In their place – this new-look Solar System,
a brave new Planetary Empire, ready made
for Old Earth and all her billions
to lovingly call “home”.
Where once nine worlds whirled and whipped
around the golden Sun now a dozen skip
and play, with many more bedraggled strays
waiting in the gloom to join the game.
Out on the Old Frontier a tearful
Pluto, fearful of demotion from
“planet” to “plan-not” now breathes easy
once again, its good name preserved,
its identity intact;
permission granted to carry on crawling
round Sol serenely, Tombaugh’s spirit
left to rest in interplanetary peace.
But nearby, ice-cloaked Charon celebrates.
Pulled from the crowd of countless moons she swoons
now in the spotlight,
a new celebrity, plucked from obscurity
to twirl for Hubble’s cameras as
Ptolemy’s paparazzi shout her name.
She beams “I never thought I’d be here!”
No. None of us did either, dear…
And Ceres! Are they serious? Vexed Vesta
and angry Pallas will demand a recount,
insist their size and shape make them
as much a planet as Piazzi’s preening peacock.
As for princess Xena, twirling in her barbarian
leather skirts, flirting with her neighbours
in the Oort she deserves the chance to dance
a planetary waltz around the Sun
twice each long millennium…
Looking up tonight, away from this flat
flickering screen the faithful sky I’ve known and seen
since reading my first book on “space” has gone;
the familiar street map of my celestial neighbourhood
defaced with garish Post It notes
marked “Maybe”, “Maybe Not”.
I’ll learn to love this Solar System version 2.0
I’m certain – but tonight I just feel lost…
© Stuart Atkinson 2006