Sunday, May 06, 2007


I love this poem by Adrienne Rich, probably because its science related and reminds me of Vera Rubin (this amazing astronomer I met who discovered dark mass). Astronomy is a very discriminating field that does not easily accept women into its research and study. Anyways, this poem is about the astronomer Caroline Herschel who discovered eight comets. When she was 10 she had typhus, stunting her growth; because of her malformation her father advised her that she would never marry and would live her life as an "old maid". She never ended up marrying and was one of the first women recognized for a scientific position, she received pension from King George III, the Gold Medal of Science from the King of Prussia and numerous presitigious awards.

by Adrienne Rich

A woman in the shape of a monster
a monster in the shape of a woman
the skies are full of them

a woman ‘in the snow
among the Clocks and instruments
or measuring the ground with poles’

in her 98 years to discover
8 comets

she whom the moon ruled
like us
levitating into the night sky
riding the polished lenses

Galaxies of women, there
doing penance for impetuousness
ribs chilled
in those spaces of the mind

An eye,

‘virile, precise and absolutely certain’
from the mad webs of Uranusborg

encountering the NOVA

every impulse of light exploding

from the core
as life flies out of us

Tycho whispering at last
‘Let me not seem to have lived in vain’

What we see, we see
and seeing is changing

the light that shrivels a mountain
and leaves a man alive

Heartbeat of the pulsar
heart sweating through my body

The radio impulse
pouring in from Taurus

I am bombarded yet I stand

I have been standing all my life in the
direct path of a battery of signals
the most accurately transmitted most
untranslatable language in the universe
I am a galactic cloud so deep
so invo-luted that a light wave could take 15
years to travel through me
And has taken
I am an instrument in the shape
of a woman trying to translate pulsations
into images for the relief of the body
and the reconstruction of the mind.

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