Sunday Poem

—From the Washington Post – November 13, 1980:

“It defies the laws of orbital mechanics as I understand them but two components of the fifth ring out are braided,” said Dr. Bradford Smith of the University of Arizona, one of the scientists gathered at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to study photographs being transmitted from [Voyager I]. “If the distribution of these braids is uniform around the entire ring then there are as many as 1,000 braids in the ring.”

Not only is the fifth ring in braids, Smith said, but the 500-mile long braids appear to have kinks in them. Smith said that as bizarre as the braids are the kinks are even more bizarre. “If you look closely, you see abrupt bends in the braids, as if somebody took the surface and bent it,” Smith said. “I don't even pretend to understand what this means.”

Don't Even Pretend

Saturn's rings was all nappy

spread out from her head

like she just woke up

took a shower & aint dried them yet

dread locks

cluttered with moons/meteors/mysteries

so God, She said:

“girl…now you know

I can't let you be orbiting round me

looking like that. suppose we have company.

what they gon think of me?”

God took off from work

unscrewed Her Afro Sheen jar

washed Her comb & pick

sat under constellations

& told Saturn to sit on the space

between Her legs.

“honey, I got to plait your rings

even if I miss a day's pay.”

God got to cornrowing Saturn's rings

aint nothing more coaxing than God's hands

spreading each ring into 3 strands

sifting through rocks that was worlds eons ago

She finger Afro Sheen down the part

softening scalp/loosening crusty moons

stuck in orbit

She start humming Nina Simone

while threading wisdom down each row

“here comes the sun

little darlin

here comes the sun…”

hands so knowing

they tug/twist/twirl those knotty rings

& Saturn don't whine

just listen to the lyrics

& feel tight lightness

creeping along her scalp

down her back into infinity

Saturn close her eyes

& feel peaceful

like when God rubbed Her palms

for the sixth time & rolled rings

from the swirls in the fingerprints

of each hand

“here comes the sun

little darlin

here comes the sun…”

God weave bright beads, baubles & shells

yellow curves/purple swoops/blue loops

decorate the arcs spreading now

like the stiff necklaces

around the throats of Masai sisters

“there child. I'm finished!

my my, you look like a magic pinwheel

gracing space. Here, look in my corona

& see how pretty you are.”

God hum & sigh

She got to rest these few more hours

work again tomorrow

smiling early from the east

glinting off Saturn's rings

like a fawn darting quenched from a water hole

and back into the forest

by Peter J. Harris
Bless the Ashes

—with thanks to Zara Houshmand