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"Clyde Tombaugh" by Christopher Fox Graham

"Clyde Tombaugh"
A companion poem to "Dear Pluto"

The Kansas boy stares into the sky
counting stars with his fingers
pretending he can touch each one
playing piano keys with constellations

Clyde Tombaugh
the spheres make music most us will never hear
but he orchestrates symphonies
oboes in Orion
clarinets in Cancer
violins in Virgo
percussion rumbling off supernova timpanies
snare drums on the skin of black holes
while spinning quasars keep perfect rhythm

the boy, now a teen measures stars with his telescopes
built from leftover parts
shaping steel and mirrors
to bend the light down into his hands
he wants to hold the weight of stardust in his palm

the boy, now a man,
works on Mars Hill
the evening shift at Lowell Observatory
scouring the images for differences
one single speck out of place
but these were skies he could paint from memory

on a night like tonight
a cold February
the man became a boy again
when he found a spot hide-and-seeking with him
telling him the stars and planets were looking back at us
an undiscovered instrument making music he was the first to hear
a ninth symphony he held for a moment
heard alone, echoing in solitary discovery
before he shared it with the world

76 years later,
nine years after his death
mankind's ship in a bottle
broke the bonds of earth to reach out
and find New Horizons
in the cold dark of space

Clyde Tombaugh's ashes aboard New Horizons
in a case no bigger than heart of a boy
now 2.97 billion miles from Kansas
from Mars Hill
from our entire history
are the ashes of the man who first heard the music

after six years alone in the dark
he traveled farther than anyone in history
to visit a world unseen by human eyes
and last July, the man became a boy again
matching his imagination to the globe in front of him
visiting an undiscovered country held for a moment
a solitary discovery
before he shared it with the world

at that distance, signals and light take 4 and half hours to reach home
in those hours, Clyde Tombaugh,
you had a world captivated in the silence
waiting 4 billion years
for someone to visit

what did you talk about?

did she ask what the sun feels like when so much closer?
how it warms your skin in summer?

did she tell you her story?
what it’s like to be so far away, alone in night?
how her years pass in centuries?

did you tell her about us?
about Kansas
about Mars Hill
about what it feels like to hold stardust in your palm?
did you tell her there were 7 billion boys and girls back home
waiting to see her for the first time?

was she eager to meet you since she first saw you
playing hide and seek with your telescopes
or counting stars with your fingers

or did she just sing a song?
one half of an unfinished duet
a harmony you already knew
something slow and beautiful
a secret only two lovers can understand

This post first appeared on Fox The Poet, please read the originial post: here

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"Clyde Tombaugh" by Christopher Fox Graham


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