the astronomer and the ascetic

“Look up. What do you see?” “I see the stars,
mute and gigantic, wheeling over Earth
and carrying the Universe’s secrets
with all the speed of thieves evading capture.
And what do you see?” “I see God Himself,
ablaze and robed in white, pointing at me
and all the world’s inhabitants, at once
a judge of sin and savior of poor sinners.
Fool, with your instruments of measurement,
you aim to fit divinity on paper
as if the heavens were a map! But I
am blessed by holy visions.” “The more fool you,
for thinking that the dim light of a candle
burns brighter than a star, only because
the star’s unseen without a telescope.
The grinning skull upon your desk is brainless!”

They quarreled on, two brothers in the dark,
each staring in the eyes of the unknown,
each in a losing fight with human folly,
each certain of the other’s knowing nothing.

published in the fall 2018 issue of the scribe (umass amherst)

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