but I brought my colored pencils, sketched
what I saw, the rainbow embracing our world,
fading to fathomless dark. But only for an hour
or so. Then, like a crimson kokoshnik, headdress
of old Mother Russia, the sun, once again,
on the rise. That ecru wound like the backbone
of a Sauropod? The Grand Canyon. Skull
of a moose? The Great Lakes. Moscow, ember
of a dying fire. Liquid paint would bobble, float
out of reach; oil could damage the instruments.
With my pencils I sketched an azure Africa,
savannahs in flames, the Nile’s spider-web
meanderings, its verdant strip of green.
Often I only had time to take notes—
dark blue … there, washed out. Learned the color
of water depends on its depth, its floor, whether
the sea is choppy or calm. Freed of obstructions,
air and haze, reached a place of pure brightness,
unprecedented clarity. Came to view Earth
as a finite thing, atmosphere thinner
than the thinnest skin. I could stare for hours,
unable to look away, but strict arrangements
forced me back—pencils and sketchbook,
my solitary exuberance, stored for later use.