This poem formed from two quite different stimuli. One was an oil painting of an old woman, sitting outside her farmhouse with her spindle held high, poised to spin yarn from the raw wool at her feet. The other was the short story The Star by Arthur C. Clarke. I was 18. It was the first time where I experienced the power of a short story that ends with an existential punch to the gut. I have never forgotten that story read over 32 years ago. Once you've read the last lines of The Star, you will understand why that moment of choice in the painting between hope and fear but poised forever uncertain came together for me with Clarke's Jesuit priest protagonist.
There is a borrowed inch of choice on which we pivot,
in our orbit of uncertainties, hopes and fears.
And still the universe dreams.
Burns herself up
in glorious bursts of supernova brilliance,
while giving birth to dead stars.
And still we yearn, heartbeat to heartbeat,
for a swift passage to that ancient light,
forever and always,
into the night skies.
Fiona Mackintosh (© April 26, 2014)