by Pippa Little
Over blue woods soaked in night–juices
They nose low from star fields and ice caps, move true
To earth’s curve, surprised perhaps to have strayed so far,
So close that hair on the watchers’ skins electrify,
Burn cold. The artist works fast as if from memory,
The poet plots his Year of Meteors, of miracles
But the beings are gone so soon: having seen lit windows,
Shining water–meadows, they’d thought to rest a moment
On our world’s mattress, and been startled by such attention.
Their luminous after–image hangs above the artist’s marriage be
Through the deaths of two children in a single week.
Their mother thinks the smoulder and smoke–trails
A secret foreboding of battlefields, the falling down of angels.
The poet muses on wanderings in heaven, immeasurable
And random, so far beyond our reach we give them names,
Animal words in order to call them back,
Those glimmering familiars who almost touched us.
Frederic Church’s painting “The Meteor of 1860” and Walt Whitman’s “Year of Meteors” in Leaves of Grass were the result of each man having stood at the same time but several miles apart along the Hudson River and witnessing a very rare meteor-procession so close to earth the phenomenon are called “earth grazers.”