“The Great Conjunction” by Catherine Johnson

Catherine Johnson


You can’t quite see it yet—so small
it could be a chemoton—

but it claims to have hope, it claims
to know things you don’t,

if you could only find it
maybe this camping trip was worth it after all

even the tent not quite anchored—
a missing stake

after so many years in the basement—
even your telescope outdated

heavier than it needs to be—
but you point it at the stars hoping

to see the first conjunction
of Saturn and Jupiter in eight hundred

years as if to pretend
you’re not still quarantined

if you can see something
that doesn’t depend on anything

you can do but simply
is itself, marvelous and constant,

whether you are here or not. Finally,
it appears—and you think you can even

see the four moons around Jupiter’s
rings. You congratulate yourself—

you’re Galileo! And later, when you find
the rogue stake lodged underneath

a box of vinyl records you wonder
if it imagines itself as a needle

on a flat earth
playing everything at once.

from Poets Respond
December 27, 2020


Catherine Johnson: “Jupiter and Saturn are aligning for the first time in several hundred years, an event which is known as the Great Conjunction. While such events usually inspire me with a sense of awe, during a pandemic, my reactions are more complicated—hope, doubt, vulnerability—wondering what the future holds for us as a human species.”

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