—which studied the cosmic microwave background, or the light left
over from the Big Bang—indicate that this period of light began about
100 million years later than Planck's previous estimate. "While these
100 million years may seem negligible compared to the universe's age
of almost 14 billion years, they make a significant difference when it
comes to the formation of the first stars," Marco Bersanelli of the
University of Milan and a member of the Planck Collaboration, said
in a statement.
—Calla Cofield, Space.com, February 5, 2015
The most brilliant comet was Donati's, which last appeared
No one alive now will ever see it, as scientists calculate
the duration of its elliptical orbit to be nineteen hundred years.
My older brother never lived to see the cell phone. When he died,
my portable computer weighed fourteen pounds.
Some truths are ugly:
the New World black vulture, for instance,
is a threat to farmers & ranchers: a gang, working together,
will sometimes take down a newborn calf or lamb, rip
the animal's face & eyes until it passes into shock,
then devour it alive
Half predator, half pure pathway
from cold flesh to flight. Today,
like all days, is another
beginning. Nearly warm. And the vultures
untuck their heads, spread their wings & hold, hold, hold. Salutation:
forty perched in the crowded limbs above me. But when I say aloud,
They are almost all gone now, they do not move.
Who knows the dead
better than they do?
Sometimes I stand in the road to watch them
elegantly angling home. The sky, a busy runway, as the shadows
of the oaks—
their branches like charts of the body's systems—
define themselves on the hard dirt.
Today we will say finally & again.
Perhaps even resolution. Some birds already circle above
the fields, but most merely pose, bathing in the sun, waiting for the air
to warm & rise into the thermals on which they glide. And because
they have no vocal organs, the stand of trees where they loaf
gives off only an electric hiss & hum.
Their name in Latin
means tearer or purifier, Cathartidae, as in catharsis, clothed in black.
Birdwatchers call the white feathers at the tips of their wings
Far off, the glossy crows scream. Nearby, the chickadee
& the thrush. Only me, the dog, & a young girl, jogging,
her earbuds erasing the world's low winter song. Soon, the owl
behind the house, maybe a mouse in the kitchen.
The Tibetans & the Mayans knew the vulture is both practical
In one creation myth, it is the Earth's great mason,
lime plastering the front of its apron, as digestion turns the forsaken
into splashes of immaculate light.
Once there were two photographs
of Donati's comet—the first comet ever caught on film—one taken
by a Harvard astronomer, the other—far better, but no longer extant—
by an unheard-of photographer in England with only his portrait lens.
Yesterday, a friend called to ask how long I think our grief
continues. He's lost his gloves, the last gift his wife will ever give him.
And though I said, Forever, I meant, of course, something less.