15 October 2004


after "The City Limits" by A. R. Ammons:

The Sky Falls to Bits

When you digitize a telescope, swap a magnifier
and light detector for a zero-and-one recorder, your new telescope
knows without seeing what is galaxy or moon, when you digitize

a yes-or-no truth table of astronomical knowledge
to guide the path of the lens, you set loose the machine; when you
the equipment, a thin tube expands to a dish patrolling the sky,

capturing the twinkling stars, wresting new secrets from them,
no qualms about strange shadows or vagaries; when you digitize
the ambulation of a curiosity that investigates the deep-red

flarings and bright-banded rings of moons circling the great
orb of a distant planet or the black holes and at no
time shudders at the whelm of immensity; when you digitize

that knob and tilt-bar, film and glass, length and breadth, step and
all are manipulated by mute process, programmed rigor
that roams the universe, the sky opens and bares its truths, the

fear does not infect the dish at work in space, and the raw
truths of the stars long dead are brought before us, new science
and old theories fall to plain facts spelled out in bits.

Nick Halpern's new book is about Lowell, Ammons, Merrill, and Rich.

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