Suddenly it all came back to me:
How standing in its shadow for the first time,
All those years before, had been frightening.
I remembered looking up at it, stunned,
Shielding my eyes from the Sun
With a shaking hand and thinking
“You’re kidding me…”
It looked like a fairground ride,
Ripped by giants’ hands from the sands
Of Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach and
Dropped onto the leafy Cheshire countryside,
Prudishly stripped of all its garish lights
Before being allowed to scan the sky –
“Does it shoot death rays, dad?”
I heard a passing kid ask,
Yanking me back to Today and I thought
To myself ‘Yeah, it should’.
For silhouetted against the angry grey sky,
Slashes and splashes of bright blue shining through
Gaps in its framework of bone grey
Metal beams and girders, it was a 70s James
Bond villain’s dream weapon,
Something designed to fire beams of energy,
Not cock an ear to the universe in
Search of meagre amounts of it.
Then it started to move.
With icy, end of April winds whistling through
Its skeletal scaffolding, the great machine began to turn.
Slowly at first; then faster, greased wheels clunking,
Clanking like a WW1 tank coming to life,
It began a slow motion sweep, hunting for its prey:
Faint beep-beeps whispering through the Great Out There…
All around me children were standing in silence,
Squeezing their parents’ hands,
Seeing – what? I wondered. The wondrous celebration
Of technology and metalwork I saw, or something else?
Something that was about to come to life?
One of those robots in disguise?
Oh yes; the Lovell would make a great Transformer.
Can’t you just imagine it suddenly heaving itself up
Out of the ground with a deafening growl of gears,
The dish revealed, at last, to be just the fearful head
Of a much larger, monstrous machine!
And with an avalanche of dirt and soil
Falling from its long-hidden limbs,
Hauling itself up to its full height before striding
Across the field, that dish would pan to and fro,
Scanning the people screaming below,
Idly noting their slowed-down-pulsar pulses
Before crushing them into a pulp –
But there’s no need for such a fantasy,
Not when the truth is beyond strange.
Standing in the Lovell’s long shadow you know,
You feel it, in here, that every tone it hears,
Every chirp and cheep collected from the starry deep
Reveals the true beauty of the universe
Hiding behind our cerulean sky:
Choirs of singularities singing at the funerals of stars;
The bawling of newborn-suns, so far
Away their infancy ended a billion years ago;
The whale-song of whirling galaxies,
Doppler-shifted dirges, mournful and deep.
© Stuart Atkinson 2012
Illustrated version here: click to enlarge…