16 02 2016

LIGO_2Image (c) Christine Rueter


It didn’t look like much – just a jiggle of lines on the screen,
Like the ECG chart of the heartbeat of a dying man
Dragging every precious breath from the air,
Or the marks scratched by a pen onto a paper scroll
As a tremor rolled along the San Andreas Fault.
But it was History, there for all to see, an image
As glorious as Galileo’s asterix-etched sketch of Jupiter’s
Mischevious moons, or Rosse’s portrait of the great
Whirlpool drawn at the Leviathan’s eye;
A record of a whisper that had travelled for more than a billion years,
So soft, so faint that the slow turn of a page
In a library’s quietest corner would sound as loud
As a hurricane’s howling wind to the instruments’ ears,
And the lifting of a single strand of a sleeping new-born’s hair
By a passing summer breeze would crack like a Balrog’s whip.
Hard to believe, looking at that jagged mountain range trace
That we were staring the deepest of deep physics in the face,
Looking back in time to when a pair of black holes danced,
Swirling dervishes, dense as 60 Suns,
Their shirts and skirts of Hawking radiation twirling as they whirled
Around each other in a giddy reel, then
Hurtled together at half the speed of Light –

What a sight that must have been,
But hominid eyes would not look to the sky for an eternity more,
And when it finally cocked an ear in their direction
LIGO could hear only echoes of their ancient laughter,
Waves tumbling in from the depths of space and time,
Lapping at our feet, rippling round, through and past the Earth
Like the melodies of distant whale-song.

© Stuart Atkinson 2016

This poem is one half of a special, two-part work produced by myself and American artist and poet
Christine Rueter, who shares my fascination with, and love of astronomy and science. The painting you see at the top of the page was created specially to illustrate this poem. You can see more of Christine’s beautiful work, and read some of her poetry, on her blog:



Another One Falls

6 02 2016

ed m

No mournful blare of trumpets but a forlorn Tweet announced
Another one had gone;
Another of the tallest redwoods in the forest of history
Had fallen, leaving a poorer world behind.

One by one they pass – the giants who dared to step
Off Terra, fly through a quarter million miles of deadly night
And stride across the Moon. On huge TVs in living rooms and schools
We watched them bounce across its ancient plains,
Snowmen stained by dust as cold and grey
As crematorium ash, mischievous boys with smiles flashing
Behind visors of burnished gold as they lolloped along,
Hopping like drunk kangaroos between boulders
Big as cars, so, so far away from Earth that their words
Came from the past –

And another one has gone.

To the children of today – their pale faces bathed not in sunshine
But in the cold turquoise light of tablets and phones – those Apollo
Adventures are like Greek myths, ancient history,
As far down the raging river of Time as Viking raids, Cleopatra’s
Braids or Magellan’s voyage across the sea; something seen
On documentaries sandwiched between “Ancient Aliens”
And X Files repeats. Their heroes and heroines, to our shame,
Are clueless Kardashian Barbies, rappers who believe the Earth is flat, or worse.
Some, their young brains washed in the filthy waters of YouTube,
Addled by the FULL CAPS blogs of idiots, liars and fools
Believe we never even went to the Moon.
“It was faked!” they whine, staring up at a Chemtrail criss-crossed sky,
Sneering at the crazy idea that there was a time, years before they were born,
When humans were smart and brave enough to walk
Across Luna’s frozen lava lakes, to take One Giant Leap
And see Earth shining glorious blue and white in an ebony sky…

© Stuart Atkinson 2016