“Pulsar” by Devon Balwit

Devon Balwit


for Jocelyn Bell, astronomer

Back then, we girls were taught homemaking
while the boys bent over Bunsen Burners,
cheering as chemicals burst into flame
and catcalling any of us who entered the room.

She, though, had always hungered
after the vastness of space, willing to be a freak
if she could work with the stars, even
hauling cables and spooling through charts.

When she found the anomaly,
her boss told her it was nothing, but women
are used to finding something
in the nothing we are left.

She found a second one and watched
the Nobel go to her lab director.
The visionary skipper differs from the crew,
he said, explaining the oversight.

But minus the nobody in the crow’s nest,
no shout would galvanize the ship. Only a girl,
trumpeted headline after headline. What
was her bra size, her preference in men?

Decade after decade, she persisted
in doing what she loved. The wonder,
she found, came in tipping her head back,
not bowing it under a silken ribbon.

from Poets Respond
August 3, 2021


Devon Balwit: “In high school, I remember having to fight to be allowed to study drafting and aerodynamics rather than cookery and what it was like to be the only girl in those classes, so Jocelyn Bell’s story resonated. How lucky that she persisted for those who received scholarships from her $3 million dollar much-belated award. ‘It’s important that girls have role models,’ she said. Indeed. Hurrah to Fred Hoyle as well for championing her cause.” (web)

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