Purposeful Universe

Stephen Livesey Ashworth

(For the British Association for the Advancement of Science’s Universe Competition.)

Suppose that I could surf a ray of light,
Visit the most distant stranded shore
Of every galaxy; fly home again before
It’s time for tea, in less than one atomic heartbeat:
What then might I see?
The tale so far: a gale of hydrogen,
That storms through halls of thunderbolts and flame,
And hammers at the anvil of creation.
It forges out of burning nuclei
The bones and flesh of earth and sea and sky.

So scattered through the fields of stars
Are here and there a living seed.
A breath of moisture damps the glass,
A sunbeam warms the chemistry to speed.
A billion years or four are all they need.
And when the spiral chains of power
Creep up the branching tree of chance,
Their tendrils touch a future hour
With unsuspected intellectual grace,
And anger, fear, and passionate embrace.

But surging currents of necessity
Drown too much hope in daily suffering,
Inspire sad prophets of futility,
Or whisper fairytales of bloodstained gods
Whose rods of iron permit no questioning.
Yet still one mind in millions can raise
A curious eye, interrogate the night,
Find heaven in the sky, transform coordinates
And ask: what would be my geometry
If I could ride upon a ray of light?

And as the generations rise and fall,
And every lonely thinker’s failing breath
Accuses the universe with one last desperate call:
What is the meaning when I feel the hand of death?!
In science can no purpose be assigned –
Yet purpose wears a scientific face,
And every climber in the unbounded race
Beyond the stars of the galactic plane
Rejoices in the purpose of all time
And relative dimensions in space.

30 January 2005