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Free Again…


See! She is free again!

Lovingly polished and preened she gleams

As if brand new; see how like a bird she

Soars now; an eagle released to ride the whispered winds

Wafting silently from Sol, gliding ’round war- and strife-torn

Terra with a grace that makes e’en the hardest heart

Feel glad that in these troubled times – when mens’ minds

Turn oh so easily to dark and desperate deeds –

At least some souls still feel the need to stare into the sky,

To let bright starlight wash tears from their weary eyes…


On this very screen I watched them worship her, saw them floating

By her side liker adoring ghosts. Sometimes she, and they, were painted

Glorious shades of gold by the rays of the rising Sun;

So wonderfully pure, so brutal of beauty that, had he lived to see it,

Turner would have captured it on canvas then declared “I swear

There is now no finer sight for me to see; I am complete.”


Once, when I saw that sunlight cruelly sluiced away, replaced

By darkness as a cloak of deepest, crow-wing black swept o’er

The Earth to smother everything like a storm, my breath caught

In my throat as I witnessed one, standing still as stone,

Reach out with a lone, trembling hand and tenderly trail

His fingers across her face, the grace and glory of the universe flowing

Through her into him in a Quickening of “I see it now! delight

As her images came to life, projected in the IMAX of his mind:

Infant stars bursting into life inside the misty maelstrom hearts

Of nebulae suddenly sone bright behind his eyes;

Galaxies’ catherine wheel whorls swirling in painfully-slow motion

All around, each tortuous turn marking another quarter billion years

Gone by while glow-worm supernovae slowly blinked on and off

Within their glittering arms, candles guttering in the wind…


I wonder… when he came out of his trance did he dare

To cast a stolen glance towards the myriad stars a’dancing

In the void? Did he peer fearlessly over the edge of his

Swan-winged craft and, seeing the man-made “stars” below,

Have to remind his puzzled monkey brain that the firefly sparks

Flickering so softly in the dark beneath his feet were not

Crackling campfires, as they appeared, but vast cities of glass and stone,

Countless homes where, as children slept in soft-pillowed beds

Their parents stared up at a single silvery star skating through

The sky and sighed “So strange, to think that other eyes

Are gazing down at us right now…”?


Those eyes’ owners are all home now, sad, smaller, reclaimed by spine-

Deforming gravity, exiled once more on a restless world of wind

And rain and snow. Those who flew defiantly to Hubble’s side

One final time must learn to think of the sky as being above

Their heads once more, and not a mere membrane

Of brilliant poster-paint blue separating all Earth Below’s

Life and love from the deadliest Black death of all –

Space, that most famous Final Frontier, that calls to us so loud and clear

I am amazed the mountains do not ring like bells

Whenever darkness falls, revealing a sky ablaze with stars;

Each glittering sequin a sun, and many – most? – of them

Proud parents to families of worlds that one epic day

May become another home for Man…


If I were them, if I had just Returned, I’d find and climb

A quiet hill, and at the top, with no-one else around,

Cast off my shoes and socks, lay flat upon the ground,

And on Nature’s mattress of dew-cooled, pea-green grass

Thank the Earth for giving birth to me,

For giving me the chance to be among the very last to see

The Greatest Ever Telescope fly free…


(c) Stuart Atkinson 2009