There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

I wrote this poem about the Voyager 1 exhibit at Seed Space, an installation art gallery in Nashville.

It was 1977.
We needed a dream
to rise up
and stoke “our capacity for wonder,”
as Fitzgerald would say.
Elvis was dead,
New York City was dark,
and there were Saturday night fevers
that just wouldn’t break.

So we fired you up,
cut the apron strings
and let you fly.
Over Jupiter and Saturn,
past pitiful old Pluto even.

But it gets lonely living “out there”
and thinking “out there.”
Just ask Icarus.
He left Earth and got burned by the sun.

But now
a little purple light
in a dark room in Nashville
that moves in shades
of red and blue and green
let’s us know
our old friend,
the robot,
is still out there,
still moving and shaking,
still talking back
to anyone
who will listen.

And since our friend left,
Carl Sagan has died,
and the pale blue dot we call home is burning.
And now Jimmy Carter has cancer.
But his Georgia farm boy voice
is with you, Voyager
and will be for a billion years.
And so is the cry of that baby
and the sounds of Bach and Beethoven,
of Blind Willie Johnson and “Johnny B. Goode.”

I hope someone finds you
and your record collection
before your race is run.

But they might not.
Sometimes love letters get lost in the mail.

But this little purple light
let’s us know
for now
that you were here
and there
and so were we.

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