Look how around the edges of old maps
excited cartographers dutifully etched,
Here Are Monsters. Their writhing inks drew
Amazons with bloody swords filling the gaps
of the known world, painted hydras and sketched
triple-bodied Geryon picking off the crews
of creaking ships daring too far from home.
Now that we know our place from Southend to the end,
Gorgons, dragons and giants have relocated
out of reach again – deep in space unknown
by probe and satellite. We hope they’ll send
signals at last. Penitents, we’ve waited
too long. We creep by the scars of the earth,
afraid now once again to gain control
of whatever wonder we wish to do.
And our obsessive Hubbles must scan
for the great or vile to roar out a black hole,
then make us slaves or gods gloriously new.
In new myths too we’re always backward:
can’t travel time, read thoughts, refrain
from acts, levitate or trump enlightenment.
Our heroes must fight slimy, tenacled hoards
of laser-shooting chimeras – this to regain
our humanity’s precarious refinement:
our questions about the soul and where we are
in the universe, why a gram of hate
outweighs plutonium or enriched love,
what a human left alone with the stars
should do while living in a solitary state
besides look for visitors from above.
Some of us think they see celestial hints
of revelation lighting the jet plane sky,
yet they still feel an old impulse to hide
only to meet timid creatures who squint
at charts where monsters like us multiply,
and, like us, consider how large a stride.