The possibility that travelling in space will bring the human race nearer to the answer to it’s deepest question, “ What is the origin and meaning of our own self-awareness?” Is about as remote as the chance of learning about love by landing on Eros.

Big Bang

Everything woke up,

jumped out of bed and stretched.

Nothing could stop now.

Whatever was going to happen.

...and blue bleak embers, Ah my dear. G M Hopkins.

The Doppler Effect

Despite the fierce joy of the fiery creation

Bleak embers glow in every direction.

So, as the fire engines come, seeking flame,

the note of dejection is always the same

A falling tone as they learn, once again,

It was not you they sought;

That the point of excitement may never return.

But can the time come when this mood will reverse

And even dismay can turn to elation?

Perhaps when our Universe starts to contract,

When the end is in sight and the final bell tolls,

Will the fire engines pass with an upbeat note,

Ignoring the part for the greater whole,

As they race toward the last catastrophe.

Dark energy

Tyrannosaurus rex

was not expected to be too successful,

though success he was,

(you can see it written all over his face)

because if he were,

he would destroy all of the others,

and then, his meteoric rise burnt out,

fall in upon himself;

a dark body

moving too fast

in the wrong place

Most theories to describe the structure of the Universe require the existence of 10 or 11 dimensions rather than the three dimensions of space and one of time that we can understand from own experience. The models suggest that before the big-bang, all dimensions may have been equivalent, but after it most of them collapsed to sub-atomic size. From a different stand-point some people seeking to understand, or even define subjective consciousness have concluded that it may derive from irreducible properties of the Universe.


Some say that, before the start,

the Universe had six dimensions;

three of space,

and three of kind;

faith that every soul will be alike,

hope that such a one will lie close by

and love that, when the word comes,

lets them stand apart.

Then, when time began its race,

at first place alone remained

and some have thought

care withered, like a dried, or vanished, core.

Some, though, believe in the reverse,

that space is small;

that each 'here' is alike

and through its door

are fields in which the soul will graze.

It is said that stars can be seen in broad daylight by an observer at the bottom of a well. Here the question addressed is, ‘which stars?’

Stars in daylight

Centre of passion, soul of village life,

where young men met, and women drew their needs

from your cool heart with shapely grace,

and carried the yoked load with splash and swing,

stirring such feelings, pure and true, or base.

No wonder then, that in your echoing depths,

dreamers would see bright stars at noon.

"But are there stars that could lie overhead,

or bend their rays to pass your mossy brink?"

"Only some few that burn with youthful love,

or demon Algol with his leering wink ,


Before the discovery of black holes, it was thought that all matter in the universe would finally become iron, the element with the lowest energy nucleus.

The ages of man

We did not enjoy the old stone age.

It began nowhere

and went on too long,  

smelling of damp caves, that only the children liked

and the sun shone less brightly than it does now.

Then came the new stone age;

clouds parted,

people emerged and began to walk tall

and to dream of Georgian Houses

and wonderful cities to come.

The bronze age was best,

with remarkable copper pans hanging on walls

and swords were so blunt, that though brandished with style

they would not hurt a fly,

With verdigris never a problem,

indeed it was welcome;

remarkable blend of Bordeaux mixture and noble decay.

How did the iron age dawn?

With one fierce clang

and the sad weapons knew that the old game was up.


Heavy, magnetic, the colour of blood.

Climax and ending; both varied and dull?

Nonetheless, iron is what all shall become.

Dirt, dust and decay will vanish away

and iron shall be left with no means to rust;

and on the last day, when the trumpet shall sound,

and all have returned,

gathered up in their ark,

then iron will shine out

like a pin in the dark.

An object travelling at the speed of the photon does not move through time. If we could travel at this speed to the nearest star, the journey would take four years, but our clock would not have advanced by a single second.

Good companions

The photon does not know time

Wherever it was,

it is

and wherever it is,

it will be!

Yes, that is clear,

but still there is one thing I don't understand.

Supposing another decides to set out

on the very same journey,

how will it manage?

That is easy.

All will be there

that ever existed

and etched upon space

from the very beginning

the weight of their heartbreak,

the light of their laughter.

Fairy story

Once upon a time,

people dwelling in a distant land

launched a rocket to release

a swarm of needles circling in space,

to make a mirror sending back

good or evil as they found.

Most have forgotten what results were gained,

or whether any fell into a watching eye,

changing its vision of the world;

or ever spelled


low in the sky.


David killed his Goliath

and became an imperfect King.

Without this he could not have been

lifted from the ranks

to find favour in high places?

Now we too must turn on strength beyond our own

And leave the birth-place of the soul behind.


Coast of the sun!

No golden beaches there, nor rocky shores,

but waves, hissing, crashing, throbbing.

Fiery whirlpools, currents diving deep,

returning incandescent noise.

And yet if we could hear only the smallest part

separated into pure sounds,

what bells would ring

in the skies!

Costa del Sol

At this white heat

and unimaginable speed

change rides still on a long base note,

where none can guess

the darkness of the incandescent night.

Only here

are faint reflections of that fire,

where light without

at last

meets light within.


Can sunbeams lie?

Is it they, not he,

who have crowned him

King of the Sky

with a crown that he never wears?

Is it they, who

travelling ninety three million miles together,

now appear to diverge

as though to say

our Lord and Master

dwells just overhead,

who sees all

and loves equally well

all that he sees.


You are my song of blue, brown and white,

carelessly turning

while I gaze transfixed.

Maybe I have raised tides on your surface

caressing your golden shores,

but you once melted my heart

and watched it set.

The water rises and falls

in the mangrove roots

and white clouds hug the northern coasts,

but I can never be at one with you

in the airless sky.

The diamond ring is a phenomenon seen in a total solar eclipse. The ring of fire is the imagined equivalent phenomenon seen from the moon in a lunar eclipse, accounting for the red cast of the moon within the umbra.

Ring of fire

She who once had worn

the incomparable diamond ring

turns to the groom

and sees a black disc

in a burning fiery rim.

His dark eye;

his malignant bloodshot grin.

From a poem by Borges. Y esta todo: la Virgen con el nino: al flanco, San Jose (algunos tienen la buena fortuna De ver su vara): y el buen burrito blanco Trota que trota los campos de la luna.  It is all there: the Virgin with The Child, Saint Joseph (some have the good fortune to see his staff); and the good little white donkey which trots and trots over the fields of the moon.

Phases of the moon

Some people see the holy family there.

The little donkey too,

its shoulders bowed,

cast out, bereft,

walking away.

our loss,

or gain

and then

the gentle joy of their return.

In a perfect world

The gibbous moon

(either new or old)

hangs like a bow in the sky,

aimed at the sun.

In a perfect world

the invisible arrow must fly to the golden heart;

but this is not such a perfect world

and either it overshoots,

or falls short!

Transit of Venus

In 2004 Venus passes in front of the sun

and again in 2012. She will be as near to us then

as we can ever see her.

Such a short time between events

for which we have waited so long.

But look from her eyes,

dewy with darkness.

Overhead a star is shining at midnight

and brighter than any we see here.

A blood-alley was a small glass marble with red flecks. They were the most beautiful and highly prized of all.

The God of War


Round like a marble

the marble of fear,

that was found,

that was found,

that was found,

that was found,

that was found

and was lost

in the dust

on the playground

The Asteroid Belt

There comes a time

when you first learn of the Asteroid belt.

After that, it is not possible to say,

I did not know!

There comes a time

when you first hear that part of all that we are

is shattered or incomplete.

Jupiter, quite obviously, does not care

that the broken cliffs

reach out like skerries at the mouth of a drowned fiord

with the same inhospitable hospitality,

as though someone could live there,

or find rest

until storms rise.

There comes a time

when you first learn

that Christ died;

his disciples dispersed.

Then comes a time

when some tire of this heavy mass.

It is thought

that they may hope to find all they require

far out in the asteroid belt.

There comes the time

when you see in your minds eye

how the asteroid belt curves in a great arc;

the sunlit rocks turn as they pass

some cross

the paths that they take are never exactly the same

and true darkness is not known.

The first pictures of Eros showed an elongated shape resembling the leg of a Greek statue. However in the best images it  looks more like a foot, in particular the famous foot of the Statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus.

Landing on Eros

What is this star

that, in elliptical orbit,

threatens to obliterate humanity with passion?

Our atmosphere could not burn it,

or seas quench until too late.

But it has been placated.

Man’s seed

trapped in weak gravity

has descended to this disembodied limb

and resting beside the knee,

on pale illuminated skin,

will wait for love


and a day.

The four Galilean Satellites of Jupiter. It has been argued that if they were visible to the naked eye science would be immeasurably more advanced. The opposing view it that they would have constituted a powerful focus for astrology and superstition. The order of distance from Jupiter is Io, Europa, Galymede, Calisto. But the order seen from earth  is constantly changing.

Invisible messengers

Io, Europa, Ganymede, Calisto,

like a vast celestial toy, but much too far away,

noses pressed against the window

at some magical display.

Ganymede, Io, Calisto, Europa,

crossing, passing, further, closer,

in a gliding ghostly trance,

like winter flies that hover in their never-ending dance.

Europa, Calisto, Ganymede, Io,

sad example in the heavens,  had we seen you would we know?

Would you cast out superstition; lead from darkness into bliss,

or deliver into bondage like the traitor's tender kiss?

Calisto, Ganymede, Io, Europa,

held forever on your tethers, slaves to one despotic power.

There to walk the endless paths of suffering and grief,

whilst sweeping out your orbits in the halter of belief.

Europa, Io, Calisto,  Ganymede,

devoted in their service, not expecting to be freed,

but reveal the haunting beauty of the movements of the spheres,

as they circle in their prison, held in stay like unshed tears.

The Handelian Association

He was the leader and founder member,

and he revered the Great Master, Handel.

He explained;

Handel comes here from beyond the earth.

To be precise, he comes from Jupiter,

the Heavenly Choirmaster,

you have only to listen to the music

to know that;


what is more,

every so often, he will return.

Yes, we must admit,

there is a certain logic. This great planet,

ponderous though it may be

is made of nothing more substantial that air,

but turns on its axis

much faster than our earth.

But, listen again.

When you hear Handel's music

and are overawed,

do you not feel that this excessive reverence

does him disservice?

Do you not ask,

Would Jesus,

knowing he was God,

have found it easier to die?

But the answer is there,

in the joy in the Messiah.

Seductive in the entry of the Queen of Sheba.

An organisation that most probably had only one member.


The planet Neptune sweeps round the sun

from aphelion to perihelion

and all the time waiting for something to happen.

Apparently it has caused a stir

in the outer reaches of the solar system,

driving Triton into a distraction

of retrograde motion.

Supposing it were to cut loose

and go bobbing away through space.

Can you imagine somebody saying,

I saw a large planet just wandering by,

with nowhere to go,

but seeking a star

without a companion.


Nothing could be older, or more remote, than Sunday suits,

hanging in dusty darkness

until they turn to dry silvery life,

like a comet ascending to its moment of glory

leaving a sparkling trail,

the head turned one way

and the wings (in this case)

turned the other

before descending to the deep folds of space,

a cosmic wardrobe,

an Oort cloud of clothes

hidden beyond the orbit of Pluto.

An elliptical orbit has two foci, for a comet the sun is one, but there is nothing at the other. One of the discoverers of this comet became unemployed (at least as an astronomer) soon afterwards.


As summer follows midsummer day,

so fulfilment

follows the time of joy

and is taken away

and what remains is nothing,

or less than nothing.

But there is a second goal:

a dark eye

a flag

and it guides as surely as light.

It asks nothing

and, in return,

gives nothing back.

As though the father said

take your share of my goods

far away

and into a distant land.

I have done that;

I did not squander or spend,

but returned

and for you

I have killéd the fatted calf.

A little night music

You could peel the earth like an apple

removing all life

and look on

while the white flesh turns brown.


you could peel the earth like an orange

and rebuild the sphere from the skin on its white pith,

the flesh gone.

Then again you could crack the earth like a nut,

but if you did that

you would have no choice

but to sweep the broken shell down,

onto the sun.

The Heliopause

We have come this far,

but the sun’s rays are cold now.

If we go on from here,

we will soon be

entirely alone.



The star that we followed has not set,

but its light comes to us cold over the burning stream.

If you told me it truly,

that one kind of fire can pass through another,

I would never believe you.

And although it was always there,

and at night it is ours,

we often forgot to see it,

Many times it was indeed hidden by clouds

that were not of our own will.

Then we were lost,

but we carried a stone within us.

Sometimes it became a jewel

that flashed fire

and at others

a pearl,

but more often than not, sullen as jet.

There were times when the pull hurt

and we might have wished to be blindfold

and tied to the mast.

Then there were things we have not done

places we never knew

and kingdoms that might have been won.

But we live as we always have, in the time

after the arrow has been released

and before meeting its target

when all knowledge can be given

because it is too late.

And, because it is too late,

it does not matter

if we fail to understand what the north-seeking pole is seeking;

That nothing can either be gained or lost,

and the lodestone and the lodestar are one and the same.

Dog Star

What are the colours of stars?

Pale colours,

but is it required that colours be named?

Homer, the blind poet,

spoke of the wine-dark sea,

and his words have told us more or less

than we could otherwise understand,

for example,

that the sea was warm or cold,

deep or shallow,

teeming with life, or dead

and seen either at day or night.

So, when we ask, what colour is Sirius?

What colour is the dog star as we see it rising over the water

and look nine years back.

At first all we know is that stars are old

like the medieval tapestries of leaping dogs

so well captured by Vivaldi in Autumn,

and here we have Orion's dog

at his master's side.

The Egyptians, wise after their time, called it the red star,

but red was the only colour that, in their infancy,

they had learned to name.

We now know; we have analysed

and the spectrum is blue-white

and so it appears, low in the sky, flashing sea-green and red.

But we can speculate that there has been

a death and a birth in the family.

Blue Sirius and its white dwarf companion

born when the tired red twin died.

It is certain now that the star we call Sirius B,

was once a crimson giant, hanging over our heads,

but, becoming tired, died, maybe one night not long ago,

perhaps in the dog days

when it does not rise,

or it might have occurred in the dead of winter,

in the ‘halcyon days’,

when the sea is flat

and in some hidden place,

that ships do not visit,

the kingfisher nests

and we see it flying low on the water,

flashing red over the sea-green.

Shooting star

“There's gold beneath those hills!”

There's gold in sea water,

but that is not what makes the sea blue,

or red in transmitted light,

though gold can be beaten out so thinly

that the mind will not encompass its extent.

But imagine;

All the gold the world has ever won, would fill a cube

whose side a man could walk taking only one breath,

which may well be his last.

So, if this fell to earth

would not everyone then come in from the night side

as though the sun descended

and, lying on the surface, formed the place

about which all must rotate?

But if stars came down too?

That would be different and more serious,

because it has happened.

A single star, that shines with silver light,

has often fallen, but is hidden beyond silence.

And also we know this; all of the world's silence

would fit within a cube a man could walk taking no breath at all,

but is so malleable that, beaten out,

will cover the whole of space

So, if this had fallen and was lying on the grass,

could we expect to find it?

Would this be, not the centre, the point

about which the whole world turns,

but the opposite, the one place around which

nothing ever moves?And yet such silence, that comes before

silver speech,

is so intense it distorts perception

and bends light.

It is an everlasting fire

and, once kindled,

reaches out

to permeate the whole of space.

Coast of the sun

The people there are not like us.

They believe in heaven, every one.

They see it, they trace it back

like light from its prism

and they know that their world will dissolve in sound.

They sing (as we cannot)

and they believe that each is a song

sung only once.

They think that pain is no more than a change of key

and in this they are right.

Also they know that some keys are so remote

that few may return

and are honest enough to hope they will never be called away

into that far place.

Meanwhile each one

glitters and shines in the light

and some, like diamonds

scattering green and blue

crimson and flame,


and are gone.


They seem so close together;

almost a classic case of then and us.

But, whether the space between them sings or not,

we are nearer here to some of them,

than they are to each other.

The vacuum of empty space is apparently full of virtual particles flickering into and out of existence. In fact it seems that truly empty space not only does not, but can not, exist.

A true vacuum

You might consider matter dense enough,

carrying a heavy case


but not if you think about

the energy of empty space and neutron stars.

Now we know our emptiness consists of everything;

all opposites, that cancel out.

For example;

Silence is just the murmuring of all the things unsaid.

An empty page, white noise of unmarked thoughts.

We are fortunate however

as there are realms where different rules apply.

Another kind of emptiness.

Like waking one day to find the air has been removed

and standing on the threshold of the world.

There it is possible to feel the chill wind of loneliness.

Wheels of fire

Stars are so far apart from each other,

they might well be alone;

but together they make up galaxies,

those wheels of fire

that circle across the skies

belying the awesome emptiness

of God's throne.

Barnard’s star

There are two kinds of space with their own stars,

the dark and light,

that coexist.

The dark stars wander like so many ghosts

blind among tombstones.

There is one near us now.

It will come close

until its night

enters our own day

and shows

in the absent soul of the ghost,

the living eye on the dead face.

Unlike cats, which must right themselves to survive long falls, mice reach a low terminal velocity and are said to survive falls from any height.

Dying fall

Mice can fall from any height and live.

They may not have some problems sorted out.

Re-entry, burning up, and oxygen;

supplies of cheese,

space sickness pills,

but never need to think about

the fall that kills.



1 Big Bang

2 The Doppler Effect

3 Dark Energy

4 Perspective

5 Stars in daylight

6 The ages of man

7 Good companions

8 Fairy story

9 Slingshot

10 Bells >>

11 Costa del Sol

12 Sunbeams

13 Earthbound

14 Ring of fire

15 Phases of the moon

16 In a perfect world

17 Transit of Venus

18 The God of War

19 The Asteroid Belt

20 Landing on Eros >>

21 Invisible messengers

22 The Handelian Association

23 Voyager  
24 Moths

25 Hale-Bopp

26 A little night music

27The Heliopause

28 Lodestone

29 Dog Star

30 Shooting star

31 Coast of the sun

32 Neighbours

33 A true vacuum

34 Wheels of fire

35 Barnard’s star

36 Dying fall

Landing on Eros

A journey into space

ForJosephine, who once gave a lecture on gravity

Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopedia, Volume 5, launched a lifelong interest in astronomy. The poem ‘Bells’ was the Authors first ‘mature’ work and most probably the stimulus for all that followed. The sub-title of this collection ‘Journey into Space’ comes from the strangely atmospheric BBC radio programme (1953), but the stimulus for the collection was NASA’s great achievement in landing a payload on the near-earth asteroid Eros, signifying a union of the poetic with the scientific. Most of these poems were written before this momentous event. The theme is astronomy and the threads are from near to far and from the beginning until now.