were signs in the sky
but we misread them badly. For a long time we thought
the sun moved round the earth, and then
our calculations showed up something wrong.
Like curious boys we took it all apart
piece by cosmic piece. We followed the stars,
carefully recording each small change
until the evidence was inescapable.
We dug up rocks and bits of bone,
but this made matters worse.
We broke them down into their elements
to see what they were made of—
earth, water, fire and air
did not stand up to cross-examination.
Anxious for tools we dreamed technology:
the microscope and telescope were two ways
of asking the same question. We carried on
through molecules, atoms and electrons
to quarks and antiquarks, the smallest stuff
that anyone could find, following
our star at speeds approaching light
between the particle and wave, where matter turns
to energy, and energy is all that matters.
It was much simpler when we could believe
that stars were lamps and God the kindly lamplighter.
There had been wars, each bloodier
than the last, but none as terrible
as standing on those borderlines of truth
and finding every one a cheap stockade
of ignorance and fear. We were burned
as heretics and witches, tortured,
excommunicated, ridiculed or quietly ignored.
When all humanity begged us to stop
we pressed on, into the human gene
and to the mapping of the mind.
We will uncover everything in our search
for something we can worship.
We have trampled down each nice distinction
until the stars we followed are no more
than patterns of the cosmos’ DNA.
We found no Eden: we were made this way.
The second of four poems in the sequence Magi.
© Godfrey Rust 1998, email@example.com. See here for permissions,