An Astronomer Poet

The Lobster Nebula Seen from the Hubble Telescope

It’s an unusual combination, but it sat well on Rebecca Elson’s shoulders. She was at one and the same time an astronomer and a poet. Unfortunately, she died young at the age of 39 with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I learned about her from Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings blog.

Canadian Poet and Astronomer Rebecca Elson

Antidotes to Fear of Death

Sometimes as an antidote
To fear of death,
I eat the stars.

Those nights, lying on my back,
I suck them from the quenching dark
Til they are all, all inside me,
Pepper hot and sharp.

Sometimes, instead, I stir myself
Into a universe still young,
Still warm as blood:

No outer space, just space,
The light of all the not yet stars
Drifting like a bright mist,
And all of us, and everything
Already there
But unconstrained by form.

And sometime it’s enough
To lie down here on earth
Beside our long ancestral bones:

To walk across the cobble fields
Of our discarded skulls,
Each like a treasure, like a chrysalis,
Thinking: whatever left these husks
Flew off on bright wings.