Anthony Walton

Celestial Mechanics

I have always been the poor
student, failing
geometry and physics,
confusing quadratics
with differentials.
You could explain it, master
of calculus, the night sky
the screen of you overhead
projector as you distinguished
terrestrial from extra-
terrestrial, then sailed
ferocious Orion, south
by southwest,
a forty-five degree angle
off your back step.
Sir Isaac Newton implied, you said,
that it all came down to gravity
and motion; bodies
moving through space will attract
each other. But it is a law
of physics that they must keep
moving. In Newtonian mechanics the stars
are in their courses, grooved
and suspended in space, gravity
pulling bodies toward other bodies
as they themselves are pulled
toward something else.
This is known as balance, equilibrium,
grace. Space is everywhere,
endless and empty,
it both is and contains what we know
of the universe,
and we may safely deduce
that our world is as it should be
as this is how it is.
It is all so simple:
the stars are in their courses, moving
through their fates,
moved by the immutable laws
of gravity and motion that rule
the world,
and it is my fate to be here,
a moving body in motion,
in place, suspended,
balanced, and helpless.

Anthony Walton
Celestial Mechanics first appeared in The Kenyon Review, Winter 1999.