Nine Steppingstones Across the Solar System

by Cliff Saunders
Hipparchus in the observatory in Alexandria

Josep Planella, “Hipparchus in the observatory in Alexandria” (1870)


Mercury, sun on its back
like a big hole on fire,
flourishes when no one
is watching. It’s a beautiful
symbol of democracy—
unforgettable, unfathomable.


Venus shines with the idea
that a judge has spoken,
even when she is feeling
the fatigue of spring.


Earth appears as spirit
on its migratory path
from dirt to radish.
It’s a small world
of flowers and elephant tracks,
of traffic signals and war
in the name of religion.


The canals on Mars are full
of fish! To save the planet,
they would splinter trees,
they would move monuments.


The future is churning over
Jupiter’s poles like a thousand
tornadoes, and comets that expire
across the planet make last wishes
more likely to come true.


Mystics close their casinos
of learning, for life on Saturn
embodies an incredible intimacy.


At its very top, sideways Uranus
crackles with crisp echoes.


Snowy owls flee Neptune
as dreams dash against it
like symptoms of spreading joy.


Once a shrine, Pluto’s
frozen heart has suffered
too much for much too long.
Beneath the rock, there’s
a final puzzle piece that
resembles the brain of a mole.

About the author

Cliff Saunders

Cliff Saunders is an American poet and freelance writer from Pawtucket, RI. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Arizona. Cliff is the author of several poetry chapbooks, including Mapping the Asphalt Meadows (Slipstream Publications) and The Persistence of Desire (Kindred Spirit Press). His poems have appeared recently in I-70 Review, Orchards Poetry Journal, Press Pause, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and The Heartland Review.

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