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Indiana Humanities names eclipse poetry winners

Linda Neal Reising
Indiana Humanities
Linda Neal Reising

Indiana Humanities announced an official poet for Monday’s eclipse across North America, along with second and third place winners.

In first place, Linda Neal Reising, an award-winning poet from New Harmony and citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

Neal Reising wrote her poem, ‘The Reason We Gather for the Solar Eclipse,’ based on her experience watching the 2017 eclipse in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, one of the places with the longest times of totality.

Find all of the placing poems in full below:

First Place: The Reason We Gather for the Solar Eclipse, by Linda Neal Reising:

It is not because the light pinholes through oak
leaves, creating a circus of crescent suns
upon the lawn—performers in spangled costumes.

It is not to feel the day lose its way,
the waning of warmth sending icy
fingers to stroke our prickled arms.

It is not to see the scenery’s color seeping
away to sepia, like a tin-type photograph
of unremembered ancestors.

It is not hearing the sudden hush
of songbirds rushing to roost
among the limbs of shadowed pines.

It is not observing orb-weaving spiders
dismantling their webs, stowing them
like returned sailors’ rigging.

It is not to keep a date with Venus,
spreading her goddess glow, outshining
the stars, startled by their daytime awakening.

It is not to share the wealth of Bailey’s
beads, strung around the Moon or the golden
corona crowning the royal Sun.

No, we gather for that moment, after totality’s
darkness, when we stand, faces upturned,
waiting for that brilliant flash of promise,

and we think, Ah, yes, this is the way it will be.

Second Place: What I Know of Eclipses, by Matt Del Busto:

My son is little enough
not to know the one
in the reflection is him.

He presses his hands
against the glass
and coos, his legs

shimmying beneath
with the shudder of
who’s not yet stepped alone.

Behind him, my hands,
giant against his trembling frame,
continue their fatherly orbit.

We play this game
where I’ll hide my head
behind his own—

to him, I’m suddenly
gone behind a boy
he’s never met, but loves.

His expression oscillates
at my disappearance: confusion,
then wonder, then awe

as I shift my head
to the side, grin wide enough
to break through

the smudged reflection.
He smiles back—astonished,
then delighted. To disappear

only to return—brief darkness
making new beauty
for the light to step into.

Tell me, how could we help
but look up and grin?

Third Place: On the Day of the Eclipse, by Elsa Bell:

Let the carpenter turn from the nail,
Let the boater lift his sunglasses,
the teacher settle the children on the grass.
Let the farmer kill the plow’s engine,
the minister unbow from prayers,
the cars slip onto the shoulder
The drivers roll the windows down and wait,
the offices spill people to the sidewalk.

Let the dogs whine and trot inside,
The drowsy bees zip to their box,
the cows sink in the meadow.
Let the owls and bats and crickets out.
Good night, good night, sun.
Good night, strange night,

Let us think of the ancients, pointing
To the sun being swallowed by a serpent,
A hole in the sky!
They stopped a war to stare And made a fearful peace.

A restlessness, superstition even, twinges in us—
the moon curtain draws, the light dims like old film,
The air cools, the shadows thin to ribbons,
waving like hair under water.
The crescent sun extends long horns—
Oh, how we have forgotten all that’s in the sky!
The otherworldly, the unearthly, the grand and marvelous.

Let the moon ring the sun And a gong break the dark.
Let us celebrate this deep night
In the midst of an otherwise ordinary day.
Let us pause.
Let us look up.

Ella Abbott is a multimedia reporter for 89.1 WBOI. She is a strong believer in the ways audio storytelling can engage an audience and create a sensory experience.