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Clade Song 10

Applied Astronomy

I once understood that which now bewilders;
to bewilder is the desire; astronomy
the goal. To know a star for an origin

I said: Just as well go with astrology,
accept an ancient name a direction through the void,
assume a link between birth and belief.

My sense of time and place contingent, a falling
into contact—being lost. To lose one’s way is
revelation, in reverse. I chose to study animals next:

I remember a certain shady green road (where I saw a snake)
and a waterfall, with a degree of pleasure, which must be
connected with the pleasure from scenery, though not directly
recognized as such. The sandy plain before the house has left a

strong impression, which is obscurely connected with an indistinct remembrance
of curious insects, probably a Cimex mottled with red, and Zygaena,
the burnet-moth.
            (Charles Darwin, Autobiographical Fragment, 1838)

I did once wish to know to finally
know the names of trees I climbed,
to call the names of the birds I bothered,
to pronounce the Latin lists while peering through
lenses. All this and more was possible
if contingent. Next came chemistry,
a place of white coats and dark odors

of transmutations deep as adolescence
when the touch of one’s own skin turned utterly
false, utterly necessary. I would pour deeply
any old self into shiny new bottles, if I could
fit, final yet alive there. There in my closet
resistant to naphthalene, tiny moths abound.

, all it takes is a little carbon, less hydrogen,
a couple of benzene rings. You can find it in walnuts.
Juglans regia, for instance, with seed in its shell
like brain in its skull and might as well
be used to treat my illness, my fanciful
self. To chew these little organs knowing. Being.

We have beaten our swords into cellphones
and I in charge of my own mind, minding
and mending the universe as I see it, as I see fit.

Let us imagine an astronomer earlier than Copernicus, reflecting upon the system of Ptolemy; he will notice that one of the two circles, epicycle or deferent, of each of the planets is traversed in the same time. This cannot be by chance, there is therefore among all the planets I know not what mysterious bond.

The stars chase each other inscribing curves of pursuit across our skies, our visions of the ancient arrival of light of light in the night. I want to hold Lampyridae in one hand, Sirius, Canopus, and Rigel in the other. Everything the same size held at arm’s length. Sun and moon, heaven and earth, named and unnamed.

Copernicus, by simply changing the coordinate axes that are regarded as fixed, makes this appearance vanish; each planet describes only one circle and the times of revolution become independent...(H. Stein, Physics and Philosophy Meet)

Ratios linger. Some stars evaporate,
others coalesce into small stones
to rattle under streams in the mountains.


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Bin Ramke's thirteenth book of poems, LIGHT WIND LIGHT LIGHT, was published recently by Omnidawn. He continues to teach at the University of Denver, and sporadically at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.