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It’s easy to get carried away with how important we are. Looking up into space you quickly realise how insignificant we are but also how lucky we are to be here at all.

A box sits on a table
I’m excited to get in
I take a pair of scissors
Cut the tape and then begin
To pull it open at one end
To take out all that lies within
Small boxes, metal legs
A bracket on which it can spin
And then I lift the telescope
And carefully I place it down
Take out the instructions
And inspect them with a frown

They’re in Chinese… but that’s ok
Because they come with little pictures
And the diagrams explain
All of the fittings and the fixtures
So step one is where I start
And the pieces come together
And I step through every step
Until I’ve finished the endeavour
Until standing on the floor
In all it’s three-legged splendor
A calling from another world
To which I must surrender

Beyond each breath another breath
Beyond each cloud the sky
Beyond each far horizon
Beyond all thought I fly
Beyond each star another star
And each encircling world
Beyond each spiral galaxy
The universe unfurled

If only I could focus
This infuriating thing
I’m not sure it’s set up right
I can’t move the focus ring
And there’s a little movement
In the viewfinder so I
Can’t really keep it steady
As I look into the sky
I feel my irritation
Gradually rise
This is supposed to be
A life affirming enterprise
But now the cloud covers the moon
And I contemplate defeat
It’s getting cold outside
I make a glum retreat
Back down the garden steps
And in through the back door
No shining distant secrets
No cosmos to explore

Beyond each breath another breath
Beyond each cloud the sky
Beyond each far horizon
Beyond all thought I fly
Beyond each star another star
And each encircling world
Beyond each spiral galaxy
The universe unfurled

This time the sky is open
No weather of this Earth
Will block my views of heaven
Tonight will be the birth
Of an amateur astronomer
Of promise and renown
I scan the wide and inky sky
Admire it’s glittering crown
I try to work out first of all
Where all the planets are
I think I can see mars
I’m not sure where the others are
I try looking through the scope
But all I can see is black
I keep trying and eventually
I start to get the knack
I find a star and watch it drift
Across my line of sight
It’s the same as from the ground
A bit like a… satellite
I swallow disappointment
And try an app that I’ve downloaded
It shows planets, stars and nebulas
And stars that have exploded
And space stations and galaxies
Orbits, constellations
Digitally recreated
From scientific observations
And as I move my phone around
I see a planet on the screen
I take a breath because I know
That I must see what I have seen
Not through an app but with my eyes
Not in a book or on TV
My heart is wondering the skies
I want to see. I have to see

so I try
my telescope
surveys the sky
I find a dot
Of purest white
Like any other
But as I magnify
Discover
So impossible
So real
So unexpected
And I feel
My breath held
My heart begins
To race
As I look out
Into deepest space
As I focus
On a distant world
A perfect sphere
Of yellow pearl
Around it wrapped
A disk of light
It’s shadow cast
against the night
In Saturn’s rings I lose myself
And melt away all fears
There is nothing anymore
And nothing wipes the tear
That trickles down my cheek
As the planet drifts from view
I have opened up the box
I have seen the world anew

Beyond each breath another breath
Beyond each cloud the sky
Beyond each far horizon
Beyond all thought I fly
Beyond each star another star
And each encircling world
Beyond each spiral galaxy
The universe unfurled

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