Thursday, May 3, 2012

   Buhl Planetarium Poem by Ann Curran

In January of 2012, Ann Curran, a Pittsburgh poet and former employee of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, wrote a poem entitled, "At the Late Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science." She revised this poem in October of 2012, with the new title, "Me and Buhl Planetarium" :

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Ms. Curran has had a long and distinguished literary career, recently retiring as the Editor of Carnegie Mellon Magazine. She received Bachelors and Masters degrees in English from Duquesne University.

While she was attending college, she worked as a Public Relations Assistant for long-time Buhl Planetarium Public Relations Director Jo Lee, and later as a Floor Aide for long-time Buhl Planetarium Floor Manager John Miller.

In fact, John Miller once related to me an anecdote about Ann Curran. In seems that a French-speaking group visited Buhl Planetarium one day. And, since Ann is fluent speaking French, she was assigned to give this group a tour of the building. At the conclusion of the tour, Ann was surprised to learn that the members of the group actually spoke perfect English!

Poem Revised in October of 2012 --

     Me and Buhl Planetarium  By Ann Curran

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More about Pittsburgh poet Ann Curran:




First Version of Poem  (2012 January) --

At the Late Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science

By Ann Curran 


The Van de Graaff generator always sparked
excitement at the Buhl Planetarium.
As an aide, I put my hand to that silver ball.
I feel the sting, my hair rises. I reach to kids,
pass the shock years before our microwaved world.
We’re playing with fire and ignore it for the kick. 

The Buhl ejects me from my white, Catholic orbit.
I gain a black buddy with gorgeous green eyes,
humor that lightens dark days. A Jewish guy who
wants to date me as much as I want to date him
says he’s engaged to a Jewish girl. That was that.

Upstairs in the Observatory, I shrink
before dark sun spots reflected on a white disk.
I am stunned to prayer by Saturn and its rings.

The Foucault pendulum hypnotizes everyone
as it moves back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
Will it never strike down the next pin in the pit?
When I tell the story, I get halfway through it—
stumble on the free-swinging wire, the Earth’s movement—
and no longer believe a word of what I’ve said. 


The aides spend hours putting Science Fair exhibits
back together. Small hands ignore the do-not-touch signs.
The glue dries, the Scotch tape gives way, things fall loose.

The biggest thrill for planetarium aides:
The Sky Show in the Theater of the Stars.
It runs all day long. People sit in this round globe
of a room. Lights dim. The Zeiss projector lifts
slowly out of the floor like an alien ship
with windows. It splatters walls with stars and galaxies.
A disembodied, deep voice takes us beyond Earth.

Meanwhile, a couple of aides slip into silver suits
and go out on the catwalk behind the curved walls.
The voice snaps on our lights and we play astronauts.
We confer. Shake our heads yes. Shake our heads no.
Shrug maybe. Click switches off and on. Study checklists.
We pretend that everything is under control
as we wing through outer space and the haunting voice
tells the piddling bit we know about the universe.


© Ann Curran


Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < >
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Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
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* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
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* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
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* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
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* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
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* Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
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* Public Transit:
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