Poem After the Vatican's Astronomer

The Starry Night
Van Gogh's "Starry Night" - Coyne & Consolmagno discussed this painting in a 2010 interview

Vatican Astronomer George Coyne Has Died - I Wrote a Poem Ten Years Ago After Listening to His Interview on "On Being"

Yes, the Vatican has an astronomer. It has a lot of scientists, in fact. It is not, contrary to both sides of the debate, anathmatic to be religious and a scientist.

Earlier today on Boston Public Radio, Alex Beam talked with hosts Margery Egan and Jim Braude about the Jesuit priest and scholar George Coyne, who recently passed away and was the renowned astronomer for the Vatican.

Without exactly remembering his name, I was sure this was the same man who's interview on Krista Tippet's "On Being" ten years ago had prompted me to write one of my favorite poems of mine. And I was correct.

Here's the interview, with Guy Consolmagno, titled "Asteroids, Stars, and the Love of God"


More Information in His Stars

I remember writing this poem, very clearly. I was in my childhood bedroom at my mom's house in my hometown.  (This was just months before my mother moved to New Orleans and began renting the house to a tenant.) I was there for Easter. I must have stayed over or had plans to stay over. In my old bedroom, I listened to the radio program and wrote out a poem using the words and phrases from the interview that captured my attention. I incorporated them into their poem.

The poem is a free verse experimental one with a surrealist sort of twist, which you might expect from an emerging neopagan ex-Catholic poet as she writes about Catholic astronomers who love challenging stereotypes and conservative contraints but remain steadfast in their own spiritual practice while also worshipping the stars. My favorite part of the interview was with Consolmagno and Coyne discussed Van Gogh's "Starry Night" and the intersection of art and science, and how it helps us all get to and understand the truth.

Van Gogh Illustration

more information in his stars
than the physicist's extract and intent
don't dissociate
math is a language
invent or discover it
intrinsic or imposed
I see a sparkly tree a tweeting
bird a calm warm sun branch
bark decks of cards
come to an intimate
knowledge play with God as an
act of love a fascinating
search of mystery
sparks merit wayfare adventure
on a palm tree in the same tonic room
no excommunication necessary
recommend delving
navigation organization
love a stream to Boston
intersect and share
speak speak speak
integrate lilies and temples
join us