hunger of the mind

To Maria Mitchell, American Astronomer

Her life was dedicated to glimmers of
luminosity, from the Inner Light of
Quaker-bred clarity, equality of men,
women, white, black, united by inquiring
appetites, counting passing seconds,
tracking progress from one whaling day
to the next. Great ships move beneath
the celestial light of planets, constellations.
She discovered a coincidence of falling
Comet 1847-VI, earning a gold medal
for the telescopic event.

For years a librarian of quiet discourse,
she swept the stars nightly for radiance,
revelation. What could pinpricks of light
reveal about the universe? How many
galaxies of experience did she observe
when meeting the worldly astronomers?

Untutored, the hidden light of women,
matriculating in bastions of separate
seriousness, she was the first female
professor at Vassar, taking up residence
in another observatory, organizing student
travel to new eclipses. "We are women
studying together." Beloved for her
capacity, care, contemplation, she
enlightened a new cosmos of thinking.

© Tori Grant Welhouse