Sunday, 14 May 2017

Visions of Jupiter

I was astonished to see the planet Jupiter in the night sky on May the 7th.  Since this unexpected, stunning event, which took place shortly before midnight, I have seen the world in a different context, and struggled to take seriously a great deal of petty everyday concerns.  In between firing off messages to friends, advising them to check the skies, and long spells of awestruck observation, I managed to salvage a few poor quality photographs, with Jupiter shining below the moon at 5 o'clock angle, and looking like a silver snowball in reflected lunar light.   Also periodically visible was a blurry seep of purplish red radiating like a beacon from its base. This made it look like a kind of sun, and the combination of its immense size and three hundred and sixty five million mile distance was phenomenal to contemplate. 

Over the ensuing days I found myself instinctively jotting down my reflections and have worked these writings into short poems.

gloss polished
ball of chalk

dancer in galactic
aspic, star-
sea voyager

cool marble
in slate black sky

a conflagration,
an eye.

Milk-white in my poems, Jupiter is actually composed of a blend of shades - white, brown, orange, yellow and red - but its appearance changes due to storms and winds which bring materials such as phosphorus, sulfur and hydrocarbons to merge into its toppermost, icy, ammonia crystal clouds.  Thus, my idea of a "film" of milk around the ball of Jupiter reflects the prominence of this cloudy colouring on the night I saw the planet. 

My descriptions of the planet as a ball, in keeping with its obvious spherical appearance, nonetheless give little idea of the actual appearance of the planet to the naked eye as it floated in the black, its shape approaching star-like, but with frazzled, arrowy points flickering as if burning.  My vision of it, then, took on a hallucinogenic tint, as I watched its spike-like blades jab the sky - and in my later writing, I began to focus on this strange confluence of sphericality and star-like quality.

Dome of frozen lemonade,
you radiate a calm
lunar anger,
singe star-glaciered vastness
in black-brightening brocades
of lucent silver blades,
cast astral tentacles
lambent as spiked candles
each glinting wick
simmers to a frizzle,
bangling black sky
in gilt-slit ice.

Later, the imagery of insects surfaced, as the irony of the planet's tiny size in Earth's night sky loomed in my mind.

Like an icy insect,
glass arrows
pincering charcoal sky,
dancing diamond,
you simmer
crackling aster,
burning bubble,
gas sparkling,
shardy as a slashed-up star.

And from insects, spiders soon followed:

Like a stiff white spider
bathing black in polar bones
you distantly ignite
a sky the shade of thick black coffee,
basking Bobby-Dazzler,
burning, spindled
gossamer gas,
you're a satin web,
a silver sinner,
scaffold of cold gems.

I am amazed to fins that Jupiter, not only the largest but the earliest discovered planet in the solar system, has had so little poetry written about it over the centuries, though it has of course been at the forefront of mythology.  The Classical Jupiter or Jove was the principal god of Ancient Rome, the Babylonians identified it with their patron deity Marmuk, while in later times the planet was associated with Thor, and the star gods of Central Asia.  I can easily see why such planets and cosmic sightings inspired myths, legends and religions in Ancient times, and continue to transfix and entrance today.  My own visions of Jupiter left me too overcome with dazed delight to embark on any latter-day myth-making, and my awed attempts at poetry seem less profound or astrologically astute, than the startled ramblings of a truly awe-struck man.

At five o'clock to the moon
you're a

scintillant microchip

jagged dazzler

frazzled superstar,

cause my heart to jump
in unadulterated wonder

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