Ann K. Schwader
Farther & still farther through the void,
we strain our gaze. A golden telescope
unfurls against the infrared, deployed
by deep field dreams. Incompetent to cope
on one small rock, yet clutching enough rope
to hang ourselves with curiosity,
we rummage through these spectra in the hope
of life’s bright signal. Such ferocity
of loneliness—or raw despair—to see
suggestions of ourselves in CO2
& methane, while the bleak velocity
of redshift turns this kinship we pursue
into the faintest specter of the same:
a glimpse of gravestones shadowed with our names.
Ann K. Schwader’s most recent collection of dark verse, Unquiet Stars, was published in 2021 by Weird House Press. It placed third in the SFPA’s 2022 Elgin Awards for full-length collection. Two previous collections, Dark Energies (P’rea Press 2015) and Wild Hunt of the Stars (Sam’s Dot 2010) were Bram Stoker Award Finalists. Her poems have recently appeared in Spectral Realms, Dreams & Nightmares, Penumbra, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, and Modern Haiku. She was the SFPA Grand Master for 2018.
Backstory: This poem came out of the summer 2022 news that the James Webb Space Telescope had spotted a galaxy from 13.5 billion years ago, quite close to the Big Bang moment. There was tremendous excitement, and all kinds of speculation about being closer to finding signals of life elsewhere. I was amazed, but also a little skeptical about how well we’d even managed to cope with life here! My imagination tends to find the dark side of any given piece of new information, so it had a (deep) field day with this. As for the form – Spenserian sonnet – I often find that the wildest ideas need the strictest forms to work them into a poem.
Editor’s Notes: See “James Webb Space Telescope could help hunt for habitable alien worlds” By Robert Lea [published November 07, 2022] https://www.space.com/james-webb-space-telescope-habitable-exoplanets-trappist-1
Image Credit: Artist’s illustration of the surface of a planet in the TRAPPIST-1 system, which hosts seven roughly Earth-size worlds. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)