Light pollution in a large city
Gives new meaning
To Wordsworth’s description
Of his belovèd subject Lucy –
Whom he described as being
‘Fair as a star,
When only one is shining in the sky’
07.11.95 – 07.15.95
Copyright by Minh Tan on listed dated of completion
and published in Perspectives, ISBN 0-9686250-0-2.
Notes to this poem…
The William Wordsworth poem referenced is She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways. The star within that poem is generally regarded as the planet Venus, rather than the Sun, because Venus is a dominating sparkle in the sky at night, especially at dawn and dusk, and bears the name of the Roman Goddess of Love rather than the Sun that is overwhelming and probably arrogant in its dominance of the entire sky.
All that aside, this poem is not about love or any of that stuff. Rather, it is about the demise of the night sky view with the increasing light pollution of cities and other human settlements today as more and more places and people have access to light at night and use it, sometimes unnecessarily. Living in the heart of a city, even a small one like Halifax, Nova Scotia, I rarely get to see the night sky anywhere near its full magnificence, even if I travel out of the city. Fact is even in the rural areas, there aren’t still that many places that escapes the light pollution of various human settlements nearby. Even flying across the North American continent in a jet at night, above the clouds, there still aren’t that many moments where I can see a lot of the night sky in its full grandeur. Sadly, I must say, the last time I really saw the sky in its full majesty might well have been in April 1980, when I was a child on a boat escaping Viet Nam going to Malaysia, in the middle of nowhere in the South Pacific with not a boat or land mass to be seen anywhere on the horizon. Too bad I was kept below deck most of the time and didn’t appreciate the night sky as it was. I just took it that I’d be able to see all those stars all the time pretty much any where I went. I had lived in Sai Gon, a major city that did not have power on most nights of the week after the end of the Viet Nam War when I was able to remember details of life. Without that power many nights, I did have a good look at the full fledged night sky on many nights. Well, at least those during which I was allowed to be up late enough into the dark and get outside the front doors to have a look, which wasn’t many.
On the refugee camp of Palau Bidong where my family and I stayed for a few months before being accepted to come to Canada and transferred to another refugee camp that was more civilized, the sky should have been quite spectacular given there was not a lot of people with electricity on that wild island. However, i don’t have memories of the night sky there. With the various wild animals running around, mostly small like rats but still potentially harmful, I probably wasn’t allowed to look at the night sky much. I recall going to bed early on a lot of those days because my night memories from there seem to be next to nil.
Regardless, the light pollution problem is one that’s not going to go away and more of us should strive to go see the night sky in its true form more often. Oh, yes. It also changes how Wordsworth’s referenced poem would be interpreted today by lessening the beauty. Venus no longer needs to dominate as the light pollution would prevent a lot of stars around it that might have been seen, and would no longer be as spectacular as it would not stand out so much against the brighter than natural night sky background due to light pollution. How sad… how sad.
The O-series of poems are one stanza poems composed before I got onto writing haiku and tanka, and short poetry while in action or traveling by select means like plane or ferry. These poems are 3-9 lines long with at least one rhyming couplet, and not of the short forms just mentioned. For the sake of elegance, I just called the collection One.