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poetry Centering

The Canadian poet Lynne Knight adds a feminist/ecological turn to Copernicus’s classical paradigm shift about the earth circling the sun.

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By Lynne Knight


Copernicus made some people understand

that the words sunrise & sunset


were only metaphors, & the idea of the sun

rising & setting an illusion. The hold-outs


thought him mad, apostate, but he persisted.

Legend has it that on his deathbed, he awoke


from a coma, saw his just-published book,

& died in peace. But go back to the metaphors,


to the idea that the rising & setting of the sun

are only ways of seeing what’s not real


because the sun stays put & we never were

the center of the universe. I just heard


my mother, another illusion, since she’s dead,

saying, You’re not the center of the universe,


young lady. Countless mothers said this

to their daughters when I was young, thinking


to prepare us for the one we’d have to treat

as if he were the sun & center of our world.


How long it took to shun such teaching.

To look at the beloved & think not of the sun,


the moon, the stars, but the earth we shared,

fragile, vulnerable, the sun burning on regardless.

Lynne Knight is the author of six full-length poetry collections and of six chapbooks. Her work has appeared many journals, including Kenyon Review, Poetry and Southern Review. Her awards and honors include publication in Best American Poetry, a Prix de l’Alliance Française, a PSA Lucille Medwick Memorial Award, a RATTLE Poetry Prize, and an NEA grant. I Know (Je sais), her translation with the author Ito Naga of his Je sais, appeared in 2013. She lives on Vancouver Island.