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These luminous clouds and whorls
of amethyst, jade, and coral
are transmitted down to earth
as a babble of data:
monochrome of linty gray
that arrives in computers
at NASA, gets filtered out,
and colored in with a menu
of splendid hues: the better
to illuminate the original
edge of the universe, and imagine
the most ancient of days.

In the same way, I suppose,
cathedrals’ stained-glass windows
pieced ordinary light of the sun
into an old story of creation.
Perhaps there is no story
more ancient than our making
of images. Or more new:
I picture a darkened
chamber, and the glow
of monitor screen on the focused brow
of a technician—like torchlight
on the face of one who blows
powdered pigment through hollow bones
in caves of Lascaux.

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The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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