Star Gazing in Gateshead


Another about astronomy/star gazing. I may try and do a series if I can get out in my back yard with binoculars on clear nights! People forget that our sun is a star so this poem starts off with my memory of drawing sun spots when I used a 3″ refractor ‘scope to project the image onto paper. Note: Cassiopeia is Queen of Ethiopia.

I remember the summer of ‘78
chasing sunspots across paper,
not that they were fast and loose,
more a case of drifting an inch a day
from right to left, pock-marked face focussed
through pristine lens. Since then the years
have drifted by, now I have only my eyes
as I grope my way into my urban backyard
light pollution rinsing grey what should be
lamp-black sky. I still recognise them;
the W of Cassiopeia, the pan handle of the Great Bear
and Leo the Lion – yes, my yard faces north – Orion
chases a bull out of sight, Sirius is barking
at my front door.

Thirty seven Earth years since I star-hopped
from Cassiopeia’s knee to her head, thirty seven
since I admired her anatomy. Ethiopia’s queen
is 45 light years distant – may no longer exist –
but tonight I have her in the palm of my hand.




I’m doing an online course on Astronomy which focusses on the constellation of Orion to explore the life story of stars and nebulae. The poem is one I wrote before the course started.

The Fiction of Stories

how reassuring to see Orion again
striding across the sky – a trio of gods
piss on a cow hide and a giant is born
yet gods have no time for us -use us
as playthings   – with mighty club raised
and faithful dog at his heels Orion
pursues a bull  –  the death agonies there
have no time for us
once we sent stories into space  -supermarket junk
a naked man and woman   –   a magic flute
a whisper voyaging to the edge of the universe
a ripplewake in space time   –   this is us
radio waves are collected in a dish –
essence of far fetched relative facts
filled with miraculous births and deaths

today the gods have fallen from the sky

yet how reassuring to see Betelgeuse and Rigel

each time we glance up from the dark

knowing they have no time for us