Antidotes to Fear of Death
Sometimes as an antidote
to fear of Death,
I eat the stars.
Those nights, lying on my back,
I suck them from the quenching dark,
pepper hot and sharp.
Sometimes, instead, I stir myself
into a universe still young,
still warm as blood:
No outer space, just space,
the light of all the not yet stars
drifting like a bright mist
and all of us, and everything
but unconstrained by form.
And sometimes it’s enough
to lie down here on earth
beside our long ancestral bones:
To walk across the cobble fields,
of our discarded skulls.
Each like a treasure, like a chrysalis,
thinking: whatever left these husks
flew off on bright wings.
January 2, 1969 – May 19, 1999
Rebecca Elson, astronomer and poet, died 21 years ago today, at 39 years of age.
Rebecca was a Canadian-American with a PhD in Astronomy from Cambridge, fully engaged in scientific research while at the same time, teaching creative writing at Radcliffe College.
Her poetry juxtaposes vast concepts of physics and astronomy with the human experience, coupling the sublime beauty of the infinite with the finite life. Rebecca Elson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma at the age of 29 and this intimate contact with death infused her poetic voice with both the profound joy of life and poignant observations of human death.
In her short life, Rebecca Elson bequeathed 56 scientific papers to humanity and a stunning book of poetry, A Responsibility to Awe.