Solar SystemSETI seekers have not yet
learned to cleave alien tongues
or even hear songs certain
to come from alien throats.
There is a way, though.
Think of grammar as a system
like our planets form a system.
Earth is the subject, yes, of course,
Mother Sun-Ra our loving rhetor,
the other bodies
other parts of speech.
The many moons are modifiers,
Luna describing Earth,
Phobos & Deimos accenting Mars.
Saturn & Jupiter our gassy clauses
their many moons a tangle
of hypertrophied emphasis.
Asteroids are punctuation,
Ceres a comma, Vesta semi-colon.
Our orbits are regional accents—
and can you believe Pluto's lisp?
Mercury's the solar adverb
blipping quickly, fleetingly, -ly-ly.
Saturn's rings? Parentheses,
enclosing cold, satirical asides
about Uranus's piglatinate mumbling.
Changing comets follow question
arcs, tails rising, falling,
rising in sublime interrogation.
And all the solar utterances
follow deep grammatical structures:
Bode's Laws of sentence diagrams.
All sentences make sense of
planetnouns moved by gravityverbs.
Learn this—learn what our sun
is crying into the dark—
and humans will learn to hear
the dirty jokes of Sirius 2,
the helium puns of Wolf 359,
the solemn proverbs of Altair.
With worlds enough and time
we might even parse the
sullen silence of black holes.
If we do, when we do,
we'll suddenly exclaim
together oh, oh, oh, a
systemic, climactic meteoric
interjection of wonder and realization.

Copyright © 2005, Greg Beatty

Greg Beatty has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Iowa, where he wrote a dissertation on serial killer novels. He attended Clarion West 2000, and any rumors you've heard about his time there are, unfortunately, probably true. Greg writes everything from science fiction poetry (winning a Rhysling this year) to reviews of books that don't exist. When he's not writing, Greg teaches for the University of Phoenix Online. Greg recently got married.