Poem – Caoilinn Hughes

The Transit of Venus

They will lift their pencils and angle them like life drawers,
sizing up Venus against Sól with abstract sums, stiff deductions.

They may see the lead and sniff at how far we have arisen.
They may see and sigh at the recursion. A sun is a sun is a sun.

The telescope is a spyglass into the future, into the slip of the past;
filtering out strata—the lustre that would insult the vitreous mass.

They will watch the brave black circle coming into prospect,
slipping into the bull ring of incandescence, at 3.846×1026 Watts.

By optical device, they will learn that lead would melt on Venus;
that H2SO4 spells neither Hello nor SOS. A salute to Helios?

They will recoil to crows in cornfields, witches on straw brooms,
Tintin, perhaps, the relapse of the Earth to aphelion, the grinning moon.

They will contend with the hundred and fifty million kilometre void;
the inbetween of centaurs, bullion meteors, trojans, asteroids.

They will imagine being James Cook rounding the bravura bend
of Tolaga Bay with its hard-wearing people, its unpolluted sands;

shaking hands with Tupaea, or pressing noses—who knows?—
trading crops, brushstroke techniques, a woe is a woe is a woe;

meeting the far removed Tangata Whenua, agreeing on the beauty
of the country, the plants, the splendour of astronomy, the mortal duty

to understand the recurring error, hold the warning in their hands:
to persevere with the endeavour to bridge the long, reluctant lands.

Caoilinn Hughes

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