Poetry Friday: Summer Canticle, The Science And The Sacred Of Twilight

Aug 16, 2019

In this week’s Poetry Friday segment, we hear an original piece by regular contributor, Liz Blaker. She is a field biologist and a writer for KNAU’s Earth Notes series. So, of course, Liz approaches most things from a scientific perspective.  But she also appreciates the sacred aspect of nature. And today, Liz combines science and sacred in her poem, Summer Canticle, about the miracle of twilight.

Credit Flagstaffstarparty.org

LB: So, this is about the experience of really being present when twilight happens. But, it’s also kind of about that sense of sacredness at that time. Everything gets very quiet. It’s sort of a still moment. It’s a waiting moment. The color drains out of the sky and then the dark shadow of the earth climbs up in the east. But it’s also kind of – for me – I get that feeling of something being sacred, but I’m trained in science. So, I understand that this is happening because the earth is turning. But that doesn’t make it less special, less sacred.

So, a ‘canticle’ is a sacred song. It’s a psalm or a hymn, and the words are often from sacred texts. So, I chose that word on purpose because of that, and you’ll notice the word ‘chalice’ is in there, and those words just kind of came about while I was writing this. They express that that’s what this is about – it’s about this sacred moment, this change that happens every day, and about the animals and things that come out at that time.

I haven’t heard too many science people talk about it, exactly, but I’m convinced that science is a quest for knowledge and understanding the same way that religion can be. It’s just two roads, two paths going sort of the same way but maybe on different planes or something like that. We all want to know where we came from. We all want to know what it all means. We don’t know – maybe we can’t know – but we can certainly feel those feelings of something special, something sacred, something beautiful and profound. And when you make scientific discoveries, it feels that way.

This poem is called Summer Canticle:

Twilight, when the sun has gone,

dragging her burning cape over the horizon

And the indigo night ascends

With a turn of the Earth

Twilight, when the Violet-green Swallows

Skim the cloud bottoms one last time,

while in the canyons, bats take wing

Twilight, when a sphinx moth hovers,

Lowering a long, delicate tongue into

The depths of a penstemon’s chalice

Twilight, when the Great-horned Owl

Alights on the ranch gate

To hoot a wild canticle

The bright summer moon,

As liquid as mercury,

Emerges from the black pine forest

With a turn of the Earth

Poetry Friday is produced by KNAU's Gillian Ferris. If you have an idea for a segment, drop her an email at Gillian.Ferris@nau.edu.