All his shifts being mornings and afternoons,
with no nights included on the roster,
winter was the only time he saw
night sky at Swanwick station. The summers were
daylight blazing even at half past five
after his ride directly from the south.
Not that direction matters more
than the season but the repetition
of his attending work mirrored the way
the seasons turned, and as for direction,
it could be said in truth, that he had none.
None that is in any conventional sense.
Ambition, career, hope were as strangers,
but not the night sky, where direction
had one clear purpose: to point towards the end
of the universe and imagine our place within it,
this blue ball bobbing like a buoy
in an ocean of space.
He'd heard of a US farmer
who'd burnt down his farm to harvest the insurance
and had spent the cash on a telescope.
The farmer got a job at a country railroad station
to spend his nights scanning and splitting the stars.
So out he went and bought a telescope too
to see if Orion's upright stance was more
poetic than it's Midwest posture, recumbent at dawn.
He climbed the bridge to be closer to the stars
and holding his scope like a broom he swept
the sky clear of the litter in his mind,
seeking not an answer to what life is
but to gain a feeble grasp on what it means
to sit like this on a tiny speck of dust
spinning silently and alone.
One night he thought for a moment that he'd seen
further than he ever knew you could.
It may have been a trick of light, a platform
lamp's rays caught in the current of his sight
but, for a second, split like a star in a lens,
he thought he spied right to the edge of time.
For there, legs astride as his, head huddled
over a glass, stood an apparition
like himself, staring back, searching through space.