Jeremiah sits in a room at Cornell
Lit by fluorescent lights
His ears are covered by headphones, and he's bopping along as he searches
       (He doesn't look anything like Jodie Foster)
He's not listening to the telescope—his headphones are blasting Queen
The telescope sends to him nothing but a string of numbers
His fingertips are doing the search
Writing a new algorithm to implement frequency-domain filtering
Sorting out a tiny signal of intelligence
       (hypothetical intelligence)
from the thousand thousand thousand sources of noise from the sky
It's four am, his favorite time of night
No distractions
Outside, the stars are bright
Inside, the stars sing to him alone.

Nine hundred light years away
In the direction of Perseus
Intelligent creatures are wondering why they hear nothing from the skies
They are sending out messages,
Have been sending out messages for hundreds of years
One of their number, renowned for his clear thinking
Has an electromagnetic pickup on his head
       (or, what would pass for a head)
He is thinking clear, simple thoughts

And the electromagnetic signals of his brain
       (or, what would pass for a brain)
Are being amplified and beamed into the sky
In the direction of Earth
It is the simplest signal they know
A brain thinking

Jeremiah has been searching for years
He has a beard like Moses
Glasses like Jerry Garcia
A bald head like Jesse Ventura
Patience like Job
They are out there
If only the telescope arrays were larger...
if only they could search deeper...
If only his filtering algorithms were more incisive.

Nine hundred light years away
In the direction of Perseus
The aliens are patient
They are sending their thoughts to the stars
Clear, simple thoughts
       We are here
       We are here
       We are here
       Where are you?

First published in Helix
Copyright © 2008, Geoffrey A. Landis

Image Credit: photo by Kirainet (flickr), some rights reserved

Geoffrey Landis's poem "Search" won the Rhysling Award from the SF Poetry Association for best long poem of 2009, the same year his poem "Fireflies" (Astropoetica, 7.2: Summer 2009) won the Dwarf Stars award for best short poem.  When he is not a poet, he is a space scientist at NASA, working on missions to Mars, Venus, and the sun. His first collection of poetry, Iron Angels, appeared from Van Zeno last year. (Check it out at He is the author of a novel, Mars Crossing, and a collection of short stories, Impact Parameter (and Other Quantum Realities).  More information can be found on his web site,