Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2011


by simon andrewes

Scientists say that when the Sun uses up all its hydrogen,
it will start to swell until its surface reaches the orbit of Mars.
Earth will be engulfed and consumed in the process.
The Sun will then have been transformed into a star called a red giant
and will start to blast out shells of superhot gas.
Then it will collapse, reaching the final stage of its existence,
converting itself into a white dwarf.

Many million years from now,
having devoured its last reserves of hydrogen,
our cheery faced Sun will shrink like a prune
before swelling out in moribund agony
beyond the reaches of Mercury, Venus,
Earth and Mars, following a series
of helium-fuelled nuclear reactions.
Then, from being a mighty Red Giant, it will end its days
a shrivelled up, degenerate White Dwarf
amid a gassy nebula shedding
meaning and matter
far and wide.
But this is not the end of the story.
For one day
in a barely imaginable remote future
new stars, new planets, new life
will coalesce
from the scattering clouds
of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen atoms
that were blown apart
in the death throes of our once much loved, busy
and unruly Sun.
And after a long long dark dark night,
we’ll find the wretched stellar relic
that was once this proud golden celestial orb
that shines from the heavens
mercifully on some,
mercilessly on others,
has given birth to
new matter, new meaning.
But this will be for other minds than ours to contemplate.

Added: 29.04.2011

Judges' comments on this poem


I really liked the subject matter of this poem, although the length epigraph at the beginning tells the story and pre-empts its mystery.


You have transformed the science into a beauty that all can understand. Favourite line: the death throes of our unruly Sun'.