Transit of Venus

Captain Cook’s and Charles Green’s observations of the 1769 transit

Caught in a jar,
a beetle can outlive
Venus’ transit
but not the encore.
And so this poem is about
death
and beauty
though mostly death.
Captain Cook in Tahiti
committed to ink
the enormous sun
and its lesion.
Cook and his men
and all the others
all dead now
despite their industry.
Even they knew
their images were
memento mori
to tuck away
in lockets of memory.
And later ones
cleverly
exposed it
to photographic plates
strung together
as se-tenant frames.
Even they were dead when she returned.

Photographic plate from 1882 transit (Credit: US Naval Observatory)

And so the proximate
beauty becomes the thing
seen and released
into whatever jar
will hold it.

The ending is so predictable.
Venus will pass,
and I will watch
the slow reveal
from the parallax view
of the living.
This moment
will be just
a clip
from the grander movie
many parsecs long
in which dim planets and galaxies
emerge from the thicket of stars
and this small passing.

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