I used to print “fillers” in some of the white spaces on pages of my Astronomical Calendar. They were extracts from poems, songs, prose, or they were cartoons or remarks or other curiosities, which I remembered or happened to encounter during the year. A problem is that the spaces to be filled are limited in size; there is many a poem one would like to quote as a whole, but can’t. But this leavening of humanity amid science was something that people liked, so they sent me suggestions. And with the need for fillers in mind I obtained a few anthology-type publications.
I’ve found two of these, in my continuing campaign to give books away: Tips Booklets 12 and 13: Astronomical Poems, published by the Great Lakes Planetarium Association in 1984 and 1987. The first was edited by Gary Tomlinson and Diane Trainque, the second by April Whitt. They are bound in folders of a kind whose name I’m not sure of: metal fasteners are pushed through holes and then spread flat. The first volume, looking as if made by typewriter, has considerably faded. The “booklets” are substantial, containing respectively 554 and 277 passages of varying length, with indexes by author, title, first line, and, for the first volume, subject.
Unfortunately the citations for the poems are no more than author – “Joyce Kilmer,” “Anonymous,” or, in one case, “Mr. Turner” – and sometimes, title – “Spenser, ‘Shepherdes Calendar’,” “Jonathan Swift, ‘Ode’.” So I didn’t use any of them, because I liked to be able to give bibliographical information. “First two of thirteen stanzas of a poem in Wordsworth’s Memorials of a Tour on the Continent, 1820.” One reason is to be able to go to the sources and check accuracy: often, I suspected that words, punctuation, even an author’s name, were not right. And if the piece was a translation from another language, I liked to get the text in that language and give it along with my own translation.
I found that I had left, inserted in the second Tips Booklet, a letter from Jerry Cimisi, of Southampton, New York, December 26, 1987. He was ordering the next year’s Astronomical Calendar and also offering me a poem of his own. I can’t quite read what I scribbled on the letter: it may mean that I suggested he send the poem to the Great Lakes Planetarium Association, and never used it myself. Here is Jerry’s poem That I do not fully understand it is a probable indication of its depth.
Now sets the sun. Now other lights gather.
What ancient cast of suns wrought into beings,
What stories still given, should we remember,
Should we cast off the measure of our age
That weaned us from the instinct of this dark.
Jewels; fire; gleaming worlds: these our names given the above;
This, of course, the secrets of the soul: in the deep,
Rich and thorough – light. So to each man the hope
Of vision in his interior, destination in his abyss.
Stars – let us tell you of the Paradise we place in you;
We who walk below you and die on this earth
Secure our future in your lights. How far, how demanding
Your fire – no matter. We need freedom from this burial
That ends us. Rise each night, travel each night – remind us:
The myths say the beings above were of our form.