“A Song and Dance” by Maria Cheriyan

Maria Cheriyan (age 13)


Inspired by the story of Wanda Diaz-Merced, a blind astrophysicist who overcame the barriers of sight to study the stars in 2010, using a sonification software that she developed.


She has never been scared of the dark.

Night at home
is the same as night on the moon,
or the planets too far away for the girl
to reach with imagination’s wings.
From wherever she looks,
the night remains the same,
the ballroom of a celestial dance.

The frogs laugh their raucous lullaby,
leading nighttime and sleep
into the bedroom containing a thousand fantasies,
of adventure and courage, freedom, wonder.

Amidst the music of the universe,
night twirls at the center of the dance,
in a gown of laughing frogs, sparkling stars,
sisters too awestruck to make a sound.
It remains immortal, untouched—
ready for her to reclaim when she looks to the stars
once again.

From wherever she looks,
she can always see the night.

* * *


Night on campus
is the same as night at home.
The girl, now a woman, studies the stars,
calculations paving the way to the sky.
She doesn’t know if she’ll see it again,
the ballroom of the night. Her sight wanes,
clouded by diabetic retinopathy.

The night is too silent,
nothing left to quiet her dreams.
Held in the confines of reality,
she can’t study the stars if she can’t see them.

The woman spins in a nightmare,
hurtling through the last days she has
to see the beauty of the starry skies.
Darkness glazes over midnight’s comfort—
the sky goes black, silent in places it shouldn’t be.
Her sight fails, the stars shine
for the last time.

From wherever she looks,
she can only see night.
She has never been scared of the dark, before.

* * *

Her friends say that her eyes are beautiful
when she watches the stars. The girl laughs,
listens, amazed when her friend plays the music
of a solar burst, a dance from darkness—
and now her dreams are higher than Earth.

With her family, her peers, her mentors,
she will make them reality.
The night sky beckons her, or maybe she calls to it—
she can’t tell the difference, anymore—she looks up,
in love with the world’s choreography,
wonderstruck by the heavens.

There’s a rhythm she can’t quite place,
in the stars, in the planets, their melodies and repeats,
their rise and their fall.
And she yearns to join them someday,
study them, learn from them.

But she cannot wait forever.

She can’t imagine how hard it must be
to see without starstruck eyes.

* * *

People say that her eyes are beautiful,
bright like a star from spectral class O—
the woman hopes they are not lying.
She knows they’ll try to ignore a mind
they think is unusable, barren of ideas.

With her family, her peers, her mentors,
she’ll prove them wrong.

The night sky calls out,
missing her, yearning
for the wonderstruck eyes
that once saw it dance.

In the stars, there’s a mourning song
she tries to ignore—
they keep calling, singing
and she longs to answer them,
study them, gaze at them once more and—

She cannot wait forever.

She will find a way
to see without her eyes.

* * *

The stars dance.

Numbers, words, people bound to earth
dissolve into a moonless night, into the Milky Way
pirouetting above her; all is pure, untouched.
The stars scintillate, strengthen, forever in a cyclic waltz.

This night will never fade.
Waves on the still beach form a symphony’s base,
the friendly voices around her a gentle melody.
But every soul is a single step,
a bold flicker in a waltz through time—
so when the stars dance, they are seen.

When she watches, she learns.

And as she dreams,
dreams of the universe
with wide, wonderstruck eyes,
dreams of knowledge,
of the secrets of the skies,
her heart sings.

She sings
to the voices of the red giants,
the black holes, the supernovas
of the cosmos.

It is a song
to the dance of the stars.

* * *

The stars sing.

She turned numbers into graphs, once before,
silent charts stacked high on a cluttered desk.
Now, the scattered points turn into sound,
music. The true whispers of the stars.

For so long, she’s worked for this.
There are things, even now,
that the eye can’t see.
But every soul is a spark of music,
a chord, a song—
so when the stars sing, they are heard.

When she listens, she discovers.

And as she works,
works to open the universe
to open wonderstruck minds,
works to open knowledge
to those who the world deems disabled,
her heart dances.

She dances
to the beat of the most
powerful explosion
in the universe.

It is a dance
to the song of the stars.

from 2018 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Maria Cheriyan: “There is freedom in poetry. When writing, I can learn its rules just to break them, or stay bound to form; I can produce beautiful works either way. Poetry is where the hands of reality and thought touch, where an impossible comparison becomes true for a line or two and imagination is set totally free. A poem can be rhythmic, rhyming, even consistently inconsistent in form. There will always be more to discover, and this is why I love to write poetry.”

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