Monday, December 19, 2016

On The Unwasted Grace Of A Shepherd Moon... Discovered Fifty Years Ago, This Night...

First, a little space science -- these two tiny moons, orbiting Saturn, pass very close to one another every so often.

Initially, in the mid 1960s, other respected astronomers said that it wasn't possible that these two moon-lettes had achieved a stable orbital equilibrium (i.e., that they could occupy the same orbital space and plane, without an eventual cataclysmic collision occurring). But the usually wise astronomers were. . . wrong. They could; and they do.

The pair orbit in what are best described as horseshoe shapes (see lower image); in fact, the two end up trading orbits each time they pass near one another. That is generally what a shepherd moon does: it corrects the orbit of the shepherded moon. In this case, though (unique in all our Solar System, we believe), each. . . perfects the other. That is. . . simply amazing -- and poetic.

So -- let us listen in a bit then, on a resonant poem -- for Epimetheus -- the sibling of Prometheus (and, in this case, the star-swept occasional partner -- to Janus, the other Saturninan moon in this orbital space). From this fine longer poem, called "Waterlilies Soon And A Pleiku Of Dragonflies" a bit -- with edits (original author: Patrick White), then:

. . . .Waterlilies soon and a Pleiku of dragonflies.

Shipwrecked fleets of naked limbs. . .
buried at sea -- wrapped
in a starmap of the sky. . . .

I will forget I am aging. I will be a medicine bag
of healing metaphors and powerful occult charms. . . I will
lie down upon the earth in the unassuming grass
after I’ve finished painting, fascinated by the. . .
stranger I’ve become to myself, listening deeply
to the picture music of the life of the mind like a kid
with forty-eight crayons and the whole of the sky to draw on
as I wait for the stars to make themselves apparent
in the sweet, sweet darkness that envelopes me. . .
in the [copper-colored] flames and [deep-]violet shadows of another
[exquisite] martyr -- to the cause of keeping their fires alive within me,
a dragonfly in a chrysalis, a hermit thrush in ecstasy,
a sulphur butterfly with antennae like burnt match sticks
looking for a light from the lanterns of the nightwatch
reigniting the passions of old poems like fireflies
inspiring the ashes in the urns of the stars to enlighten their afterlife. . .
fracturing koans like diamond insights into
a labyrinthine gallery of mirrors that see me
with the same eyes by which I see signs
of the disastrous happiness of life in them. . . .

And with that, I will quite easily drift off to sleep, shepherded once more, by my own moon-lette -- somewhere, to the South, out there. . . smile. G'night.


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