Through stately vaulted epochs, nature lies.
Within the grand exterior abide
Its cramped curated corridors. Surmise
How densely braided narrows add up wide.
Exhaustive alcoves crib and fossilize,
With plastered captioned fact, the herds that died.
Museums grant, when sparing no expenses,
A teeming shrine of archived consequences.
Behold how dolphin skeletons must soar
To make way for hyped Mesozoic blight.
Famed Allosaurus claims the central floor;
Its Aves heirs sit shelved nigh out of sight.
Small upstart mammals loiter near the door
To offshoot hallways lined with all things -ite.
Yes, even geodes—banished to the border—
Succumb to dead T-Rex’s pecking order.
The above two stanzas comprise a partial takeaway from my recent visit to the University of Michigan’s Museum of Natural History. I went there for a science-themed artist date, following a week which included some frustrating writer’s block. I decided to practice a poetic form called ottava rima. As should be readily apparent when reading, the meter is iambic pentameter and the rhyme scheme is abababcc.
As humans explore Mars, and even the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, we hunt for the very types of things showcased in our natural history museums. Visit them. Take stock of your reactions. And if you are so inclined, write a poem after!
For more poetry-focused posts, visit the Poetry Tag.
Okay, I was a bit star struck. The above encounter involved me shuffling along the front of the stage in jeans and a NASA t-shirt as Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, looked over his speech prior to a televised press conference. The encounter took place shortly before a 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Hubble Space Telescope, held at the Newseum in downtown Washington D.C. I attended as part of a NASA Social.
Full disclosure: I passed in front of the small stage by myself. I am 6′ 1″, chubby, and had a big NASA “meatball” logo on my chest; the man had no choice but to notice me. Furthermore I was sheepish and failed to say hello or even nod. But still, for a moment, the leader of our nation’s space program took note of me.
That was April 23, 2015. On January 20th of this year, Bolden resigned as NASA’s Administrator. He will be missed at the helm.
From my perspective, Administrator Bolden oversaw an era of robotic space exploration that may be called a golden age. As an astronaut, he played a firsthand role in deploying and maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope. As Administrator he oversaw some of our greatest missions: Cassini (Saturn), Curiosity (Mars), and New Horizons (Pluto). My “golden age” assertion comes by way of the incredible joy and sense of adventure I have experienced as a space enthusiast in recent years.
In honor of Major General Bolden, here are a couple of quotes from an address he gave in 2012 on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Notwithstanding his own considerable accomplishments at NASA and in the Marines, Bolden expressed awe standing at the same podium once used by Dr. King. Bolden’s profound remarks note a unity of purpose while contrasting King’s non-violent work with his own military service. The full speech, only a few pages, is well worth the read:
“Modern man has brought this whole world to an awe-inspiring threshold of the future. He has reached new and astonishing peaks of scientific success. … We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.”
—Martin Luther King, 1964, quoted by Charles Bolden
“I am proud to serve a President and a country that have given NASA the mandate and the resources to honor Dr. King’s dream by reaching new heights and revealing the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind.”
Here is a previous post about Administrator Bolden’s Senate Confirmation remarks:
Having scaled back my rate of posting, I invite you to hop over to my other blog for the reason why. Many Lit for Space posts focus on the intersection of poetry and space exploration. Recently I’ve been going all the way into poetry, learning more about form and style with a delightful book called The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within. The exercises in this book are happily taking up much of my reading and writing time.