The Cosmic Horseshoe won the 2018 Magma Poetry Competition.

The Cosmic Horseshoe
For Françoise Gilot, the painter

As a young cosmos I perfected gouache storms

around my own planets until I was drawn

electron by electron to your solar systems.


The ring slipped into my orbit as we hung

above Atacama’s southern cross, before telescopes

probed ten million light-year-old hieroglyphs.


But, you put your sun before me. I followed you,

then your fleeing Redshift (light moving from its observer).

You turned your back on my curvature


to embroider night in luminous red thread.

It’s hard to expand. warped in your vacuum,

eclipsed and refracted in the limelight of lenses.


So tell me, Galaxy LRG 3-757:

If space-time fabric is trampoline flexible

with room for every atom of our dark matter,


why do your always have to be in front of me?

This Einstein ring, where ideals can’t meet. My mass

is peripheral in your relativity. And maybe

my thinking’s wrong. After all, it seems to be physics

that galaxies have strong universes in their shadow —

invisible to man, to scientist, perceived as merely a halo.

Lover, I exist


between quark and the Virgo cluster, not thrilled

with my place on the scale, but I catch in my hand

your Pleidaes showers. I feel progress, and regress


in your orbit and that’s the disturbing truth about planets.

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