By John Fredrick Nims

Mildest of all the powers of earth: no lightnings

For her—maniacal in the clouds. No need for

Signs with their skull and crossbones, chain-link gates:

Danger! Keep Out! High Gravity! she’s friendlier.

Won’t nurse—unlike the magnetic powers—repugnance;

Would reconcile, draw close: her passion’s love.


No terrors lurking in her depths, like those

Bound in that buzzing strongbox of the atom,

Terrors that, lossened, turn the hills vesuvian,

Trace in cremation where the cities were.


No, she’s our quiet mother, sensible.

But therefore down-to-earth, not suffering

Fools who play fast and loose among the mountains,

Who fly in her face, or, drunken, clown on cornices.


She taught our ways of walking. Her affection

Adjusted the morning grass, the sands of summer

Until our soles fit snug in each, walk easy.

Holding her hand, we’re safe. Should that hand fail,

The atmosphere we breathe would turn hysterical,

Hiss with tornadoes, spinning us from earth

Into the cold unbreathable desolations.


Yet there—in fields of space—is where she shines,

Ring-mistress of the circus of the stars,

Their prancing carousels, their ferris wheels

Lit brilliant in celebration. Thanks to her

All’s gala in the galaxy.

                                   Down here she

Walks us just right, not like the jokey moon

Burlesquing our human stride to kangaroo hops;

Not like vast planets, whose unbearable mass

Would crush us in a bear hug to their surface

And into the surface, flattened. No: deals fairly.

Makes happy each with each: the willow bend

Just so, the acrobat land true, the keystone

Nestle in place for bridge and for cathedral.

Let us pick up—or mostly—what we need:

Rake, bucket, stone to build with, logs for warmth,

The fallen fruit, the fallen child . . . ourselves.


Instructs us too in honesty: our jointed

Limbs move awry and crisscross, gawky, thwart;

She’s all directness and makes that a grace,

All downright passion for the core of things,

For rectitude, the very ground of being:

Those eyes are leveled where the heart is set.


See, on the tennis court this August day:

How, beyond human error, she’s the one

Whose will the bright balls cherish and obey

—As if in love. She’s tireless in her courtesies

To even the klutz (knees, elbows all a-tangle),

Allowing his poky serve Euclidean whimsies,

The looniest lob its joy: serene parabolas.

Adam Thompson