Artist's concept of a Kuiper Belt Object

What happens to a Kuiper body
when its warming sun grows dark?
I used to wonder.
Now I know.

Once upon a time
there was a binary system.
Two suns, grandma, grandpa
waltzing one another round
in a balanced, warming dance.
They spun forth many children:
sturdy iron-nickel sons, ringed
and banded daughters,
my mother one of those.

With a loving binary center
and ordered family ecliptic
we in the next generation
felt free to roam the Oort clouds,
hanging out with comets,
dawdling through the outer dark.
It was cool and safe to lounge there
knowing I could always orbit in
to warm at their binary fire.

Then grandma died.
All the planets watched
to see if grandpa'd nova.
He wobbled, but stabilized,
lighting all the planets solo.

Time passed. Grandpa,
well, he went dark too,
and I found out
what happens to a Kuiper body
when its warming sun grows dark.
The answer is, nothing.
Nothing happens, ever.
My path is undisturbed.
But planets never twinkle,
comets never flare their tails,
and I'm never, ever warm.

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.