Planetary Poetry

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Blue ices of my dreams!  Patient and numbing mask of God!

Your scales and forces radiate into a vastness beyond my judgments...

And from your bleak unfolding expanses I feel

Crushing white weight pressing down to my still, frozen seas

I am stripped of all points of reference and deliver to you

The last fragments of myself ... naked, astonished, shivering ... 



Your secrets permeate my body like aggressive viral strains

            That multiply exponentially in the chills of my plunging ... a quivering

            That refreshes my dying by generous contrasts of hypothermia…

I swim anxiously through your harsh powders, miles thick fading into white vistas

            Wedging and compressing myself into the endless tonnage.

We are laden with particles, with ancient pollens

And with time and fear ... with waters on the brain that have frozen

            Into this creeping crunching sludge that builds

            And settles toward the thinning void.  Here,

I seem to touch emptiness while standing on the pivot of the world.



Your desolation seduces me ... a nervously laughing child

Guilty ... roaming  ... bewildered by your wonders:

Where patches of reddened ice and cold rock

Call forth the frigid forces of dissolution.

Where the cries of penguin and skua and seal

Absorb instantly into the harmony of your unfelt sinking.

Where on a perfectly windless dawn in times of pure silence

Monstrous ocean-swells rhythmically move through ... undulating your pack-ice

And there below, the cold breath of giant squid, sexual urgency, adversity!

Where blue whale in their ancient comprehensions

Express their smoking fumes ... gasping, descending

As electrified densities of krill filter through the baleen plates.



Autonomous and unpredictable  ... white out to oblivion!

I submit to your solitude and silence,

Your protracted intervals, your cataclysmic ferocity!

Howl your frenzied gales and speak to me, a trembling liquid speck!

I obsess over you and will have you in ways that are my own without denying

The hopeful conquerors who contort within your uncharted crevasses

            (Their desolate bodies now solid as stone,

              Entombed and frosted by your diamond dreaming...)

Press your pressing white weight at the bottom of the earth

As open sky, mindless expanse, clarity and cloud

Mingle in a treacherous unbalancing of the world.



            (Antarctica .........

            Perhaps your thick shelves of ice and raging storms are lost, as I am lost...

            Screaming on the face of some distant sphere whose sun proceeds to die

            Whose crazed poets crumble into the overwhelm

            As they frantically try to scribble the dreadful sheets.

            What treasures do you hide beneath these obsolete pollutions,

            Your lifeless masks of cold where lungs come close

            As any flesh may come to inhaling the death of outer space?)



I would consume your blowing mists

The lapping slush of sea and stranded 'bergs

Your grays of sky and rock and bone

I would pull close the sun to heat your ghostly face

Or tip this entire planet to undress you by the thaw

I must savor the frozen sadness of your blue ices!

Undo the lavish enigma of your mysteries!

Devour you by my sexual-hunger and other cravings raw!

Must feel what is hidden below!

Must flood your dry valleys with warmth, make your rivers flow...

Break free your massive deposits of sky!

And then…

(Though perhaps lost to my many, many worlds)

Would truly have come home to what I am.



                                                                                      ~ Richard Whitehurst  1997



I felt frightened when the astronaut

Showed me the atmosphere sitting sheer and thin

Precariously clinging to the cool face of the world

Like an onion's fragile skin


Later a meteorologist scared me as much

By descriptions of cyclones that swirled

And fed hungrily upon tropical seas…masses of cloud

That when seen from outer space, do in that airy film

Sit like fragile disks of rotating cotton.


And in my human scale

I have felt and faced those living winds

In wonderment, alone…forgotten

As they gushed across open waters, and I gripped…

Resistant and strained in their pressing blasts

Amazed and absorbed by powers and perspectives

That tore the ceilings of my flimsy conceptions.


Soon then I studied

The great black wall from the storm's eye as I stood

Calm and centred in the eerie sunshine, in the silence

Where breathless pressures bent my eardrums,

and I was swallowed

By extended thoughts and feelings of Relationship

            Between myself and that silence

            And the granite wind and the tiny swirl of cotton

            And the speck of an eye and an onion's skin

            And an entire planet and the on-going void…


These scales and diversities and narrow margins of life

Aligned before me in one measureless moment

That drew me inward to myself as I allowed

Connections to be noticed that had always existed

Elsewhere in the deeper mysteries of my humanity.



As the other dark wall approached…descended

I felt my fearful fragile little-self begin to die.

I chose to slowly peal away my fingers

And gently slipped over into the nourishing chaos.


                                                                                                        ~ Richard Whitehurst  1998

I Looked at the Clouds                                               


 I looked at the clouds ...


Burning coughs in the blazing blue

Elated beings … fresh and few - adrift

In a dazzling dome of sky

As all existing things smoldered nicely.


Sun bubbled in the transparencies and I

Strolled west

Watching these clouds float south.


Within all this great motion I looked on ... as Joy

Filled me ... spreading

From my heart ... along the moist wiring ... Joy!

A living Joy, that gently pressed the statement

From my mouth ...


             Just sense the glorious wonder of Being ...  This!

                        (Bright and early afternoon...)



She relaxes with me before sleep
Upon our tired bed, there
Beneath the ceiling ... under the beams and tiles
Of the roof ... under
The infinite sky and its great-gasping-openness...

And there, the numberless stars and beyond
The vast galactic smudges whimpering from their dreadful distances
Where cosmological scales dissolve upon the walls of my imagination
But loom just before the descent of great Answers.

And there, in our bed ... in this tiny room
Where the cold separation of outer-space sits upon our thin layers
And pushes against our heater's meagre breath
There, amidst tissues, sheets, and magazines
Within these scales and the contrasted spectacle of our humanity
We softly speak of love and then

We're gone...

© 2017 Richard Whitehurst

All photos of Earth from space are courtesy of NASA.

All quotes by astronauts courtesy of the books: (1) The Overview Effect by Frank White - and - (2) The Home Planet by Kevin W. Kelly.