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Don’t Even Pretend (The Saturn Poem)

By Peter J. Harris

From the Washington Post - November 13, 1980:

PASADENA, CALIF., -- "It defies the laws of orbital mechanics as I understand them but two components of the fifth ring out are braided," said Dr. Bradford Smith of the University of Arizona, one of the scientists gathered at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to study photographs being transmitted from [Voyager I]. "If the distribution of these braids is uniform around the entire ring then there are as many as 1,000 braids in the ring."

Not only is the fifth ring in braids, Smith said, but the 500-mile long braids appear to have kinks in them. Smith said that as bizarre as the braids are the kinks are even more bizarre. "If you look closely, you see abrupt bends in the braids, as if somebody took the surface and bent it," Smith said. "I don't even pretend to understand what this means."

Saturn's rings was all nappy
spread out from her head
like she just woke up
took a shower & aint dried them yet
dread locks
cluttered with moons/meteors/mysteries
so God, She said:

" you know
I can't let you be orbiting round me
looking like that. suppose we have company.
what they gon think of me?"

God took off from work
unscrewed Her Afro Sheen jar
washed Her comb & pick
sat under constellations
& told Saturn to sit on the space
between Her legs.

"honey, I got to plait your rings
even if I miss a day's pay."

      God got to cornrowing Saturn's rings

aint nothing more coaxing than God's hands
spreading each ring into 3 strands
sifting through rocks that was worlds eons ago
She finger Afro Sheen down the part
softening scalp/loosening crusty moons
stuck in orbit
She start humming Nina Simone
while threading wisdom down each row

"here comes the sun
little darlin
here comes the sun..."

hands so knowing
they tug/twist/twirl those knotty rings
& Saturn don't whine
just listen to the lyrics
& feel tight lightness
creeping along her scalp
down her back into infinity
Saturn close her eyes
& feel peaceful
like when God rubbed Her palms
for the sixth time & rolled rings
from the swirls in the fingerprints
of each hand

"here comes the sun
little darlin
here comes the sun..."

God weave bright beads, baubles & shells
yellow curves/purple swoops/blue loops
decorate the arcs spreading now
like the stiff necklaces
around the throats of Masai sisters

"there child. I'm finished!
my my, you look like a magic pinwheel
gracing space. Here, look in my corona
& see how pretty you are."

God hum & sigh
She got to rest these few more hours
work again tomorrow
smiling early from the east
glinting off Saturn's rings
like a fawn darting quenched from a water hole
and back into the forest

Added: Thursday, February 26, 2015  /  From "Bless the Ashes, poetry," (Tia Chucha Press/Northwestern, 2014). Used with permission.
Peter J. Harris
Photo by Adenike A. Harris.

Peter J. Harris is a native of Southeast DC and an alumnus of Ballou High School and Howard University. He is the author of Bless the Ashes, poetry (Tia Chucha Press), and The Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My 'Unalienable Right,' a book of personal essays. He has published his work in a wide variety of publications since the 1970s. Since 1992, he's been a member of the Anansi Writers Workshop at the World Stage, in LA's Leimert Park.

Other poems by this author