Edited by Dava Sobel
When we first detect the chirp of black holes colliding,
she renders the press release into disappearing language:
“Light splitter and union of instruments” (speak, interferometer)
“Self-strengthened lights exploding” (speak, gamma rays).
Such subtle “bird songs” are undone by gravitational waves,
we are compelled to fix their fugitive features.
In glaciers, nature deviates and also runs its course—
its layers not quite memory, but more like artifice:
snow's structure, changed under so much weight
the geometry of flakes collapses, heavy cold
compressing air, deforming firn.
The cold is a formalist: it constructs a made thing, temporary,
describing ancient climate feedbacks as it melts.
How elusive the object, how we read impermanence in layers
of ice so compressed
its expansion can shatter glass
of ice so deep you can no longer discern sequence,
its layers folding and sliding into the nonlinear,
as effortful as astrophysics in Siksika,
somehow still legible.
We must consider and reconsider
freezing and thawing,
a girl punished for speaking in her native tongue,
the defiance in resurrecting an idea whose circumference
swells and contracts, an artifact of water and sky,
revealing the dual meanings of sublime—
its magnificence, its vaporizing solidity—
which, I say, is proof of something, if it doesn't save us.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Astrophysicist Corey Gray, a member of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), asked his mother, Sharon Yellowfly, to translate the LIGO press release on the detection of gravitational waves into Blackfoot.