Charismatic Diatoms ~ Katharine Coles

            For Alex Culley and Chris Schvarcz

            Palmer Station laboratory, Antarctica


It could be a map of the sky—

This slide we bend to while the real thing

Stretches its endless daylit self above—blazing


With ray-shot heads explosive

As novas, charismatic as any heavenly body

Charted in singular dimensions, traceries


Laid still for the eye, laid out in segments

And floral clusters, outlining swords

And girdles fit for Amazon waists, bottles


Brimming gold, fragile parachutes blowing open

And waiting to be named, to be assigned

That kind of meaning.  As if


A name made any difference.  It could be

A map of the future then, on which signs loom

To be read across time, through which


Each season will trail stories we must enact,

Flashing urgent as comets’ tails, ushering in

Another brilliant idea before which


We are helpless.  Fated, dazzled, all this bright-

Long day, I gazed at the horizon,

Receding distance made of stone, water,


Vivid ice and sky.  Light and wind burned

My eyes: nothing I could see

Turning to sting and ache, as if


A good scouring could open me.  Beneath us,

The sea took long breaths, coming out

Of its dark age into summer’s


Star-struck bloom.  Now, at the microscope,

How deep into time do you think we might see?

Backward, forward.  Same


Old romancers, leaning over intricate

Puzzles, teasing meaning from figures

Flying aloof under steady, considering lights.