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Poems


Fantasia for Luke Smith
(after John Noble Wilford)

New pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope reveal
1,000 galaxies so far away they've never been seen before --
all in a patch of sky no larger than a grain of sand held
at arm's length. From this, says the Times, astronomers
calculate the universe to hold 120 billion galaxies, each
containing billions of stars, billions of planets. So even

in just that patch of sky no larger than a grain of sand,
there must be other planets like ours, other lives much
like our own -- but there Mendelssohn has lived past 38,
Vermeer has painted more, Hitler died in childhood, and
Martin Luther King stayed inside his room at that Memphis
motel to watch TV, or because it was raining. Somewhere

beyond that sand grain, Allen Ginsberg really met Walt
Whitman, lonely grubber, in a produce aisle, and Constantine,
on a whim, converted his empire not to Christianity but to
no-pesticide gardening. Somewhere J. Edgar Hoover is dating
Richard III. Oh, and Madame Mao has persuaded the aging
Chairman to let a thousand bowling leagues bloom. Or not --

revolution was no big deal once he got hooked on the Indigo
Girls. Somewhere in that patch of sky, you never took up
smoking, and didn't get fat, and that scene at Thanksgiving --
you went out for a drink and came back the next noon -- that
never happened. Somewhere I love you like I did when
we were innocent, and the world seemed so much younger.

John Noble Wilford is a science writer for "The New York Times."

April, 2000


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