Milky Way —
Brenda J. Gannam
With the simplicity of haiku, this poem moves gracefully and naturally from the vast to the personal.
Is there life out there? With so many possibilities, it seems almost as if there must be. But the distance between our earth and
other places that might simultaneously be harboring living creatures is not only unknown but, in a certain way, unknowable. We have
mathematical means of expressing both unimaginable distances of space and inconceivably fine distinctions of matter. But none of us
has a real sense of these things because they are beyond our senses.
How many stars are there in the Milky Way? There is an approximate answer to this but it is only a number and quite unlike our
experience of looking at the sky on some incredibly clear night. How many sperm and egg cells are produced for each instance in
which a human being is the result? Again, there is an answer but it is only an abstraction. Each of us is the unique result of
circumstances that might have gone billions of trillions of other ways. The odds against any one of us existing are astronomical,
yet here we are.
But these considerations are cold. What the poet wants is something she can respond to in a deeply instinctive and intuitive way:
to experience the genesis of life within herself. The possibility of pregnancy is a prime example of the extraordinary in the
ordinary, something that happens all the time but is still touched with primal wonder.