Farewell ISON

On a dozen frosty dawns I watched for you;

Hauled telescopes and cameras up that icy, muddy track,

A map- and binoculars-stuffed rucksack on my back,

All to get just one more glimpse of you glowing feebly above the trees,

A barely-there faraway flare of green

Far fainter than you should have been…

Others gave up on you, packed their gear away to await the day

Of your solar roller-coaster ride, but I

Kept my faith in you, and every fleeting chance I had to catch

A glimpse of you I grabbed with both cold-numbed hands,

Standing in the castle’s jagged shadows, hunting for your so weak glow

Through gaps in the low scudding clouds…

A week before Perihelion I saw you for the last time –

A hint of lime between twin lines of churning black;

A tiny emerald eye peeping out from the folds

Of the clouds’ dark cloak just long enough for one last photo

To be stolen before fading away –

Forever.

My loyalty was misplaced, my optimism wasted.

I never saw you again.

Instead of screeching around the Sun and leaping

Triumphantly up into my evening sky you died,

Ripped apart by the corona’s clutching claws,

Leaving only a smear of dust behind,

So thinly-spread and faint now I hear not even Hubble’s

Staring Cyclops eye can find what’s left of you…

The scientists shrugged off your demise;

Already delighted with their shiny data

They still rated you a great comet, happy to pour

Over their charts and graphs like warlocks learning spells,

Their spider scrawl Afrho equations  incantations

To solve the Oort’s beyond-ancient mysteries…

But those of us who had dreamed of seeing you

Painted on the sky, who dared imagine a gossamer-trailing firefly

Shining through the golden pre-dawn light

Despaired at the unfairness of it all.

Staring forlornly at SDO’s empty field of view that day

We knew there would be no treasured photographs of you

Cutting the sky in two;  no breathless “Look at that..!” sighs

At the sight of your torch-beam tail rising behind the hills;

No stories told in future years of hearing children laughing

With delight as they stared at you That Night

Through a telescope, seeing the ghostly streamers trailing away

From you like ribbons blowing in the wind…

None of those things were ever meant to be.

“ISON” was never destined to be written on that Facebook-debated list

Of Great Comets next to “Lovejoy”, “Halley” and “Hale-Bopp”;

You’re just another “One That Got away”.

No doubt next time a fainter-than-faint smudge is spotted

Moving through the stars we’ll remember what we learned

From you, and thank you.

But today, looking sadly at an empty sunset,

Staring bitterly at the sky where you should have been,

That day seems a long, long way away…

© Stuart Atkinson 2013

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One Response to Farewell ISON

  1. Pingback: Morsels For The Mind – 27/12/2013 › Six Incredible Things Before Breakfast

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