Obscure Holidays: Near Miss Day, March 23

by Megan Sexton  ·  March 23, 2013

AsteroidIn this installment of Obscure Holidays, I present to you “Near Miss Day,” today on March 23rd. Apparently, this day was established to celebrate March 23rd, 1989, when an asteroid the size of a mountain just barely slipped past earth, passing within 500,000 miles of the planet. This holiday seems especially relevant, as some of you might remember the asteroid in mid-February that passed within 17,200 miles of earth. So in actuality, it seems this recent asteroid probably deserves its own holiday more than the old one, but ah well—for now, we’ll go with March 23rd.

It wasn’t an easy task to find a fitting poem for this particular day, but I think I found one that’s appropriate enough. It’s called “The Age of Dinosaurs” by James Scruton, and it’s a fairly recent poem (2001) I discovered on the Poetry Foundation’s website. It might not be about asteroids per se, but it’s close enough, and I quite like the poem anyway:

***
The Age of Dinosaurs
by James Scruton
***
There are, of course, theories
about the wide-eyed, drop-jawed
fascination children have for them,
about how, before he’s learned
his own phone number or address,
a five-year-old can carry
like a few small stones
the Latin tonnage of those names,
the prefixes and preferences
for leaf or meat.
***
My son recites the syllables
I stumble over now,
sets up figures as I did
years ago in his prehistory.
Here is the green ski slope
of a brontosaur’s back,
there a triceratops in full
gladiator gear. From the arm
of a chair a pterodactyl
surveys the dark primeval carpet.
***
Each has disappeared from time
to time, excavated finally
from beneath a cabinet
or the sofa cushions, only
to be buried again among its kind
in the deep toy chest,
the closed lid snug as earth.
The next time they’re brought out
to roam the living room
another bone’s been found
***
somewhere, a tooth or fragment
of an eggshell dusted off,
brushing away some long-held notion
about their life-span
or intelligence, warm blood
or cold. On the floor
they face off as if debating
the latest find, what part
of which one of them
has been discovered this time.
***
Or else they stand abreast
in one long row, side
by scaly side, waiting to fall
like dominoes, my son’s
tossed tennis ball a neon yellow
asteroid, his shadow a dark cloud
when he stands, his fervor for them
cooling so slowly he can’t feel it—
the speed of glaciers, maybe,
how one age slides into the next.

With all this talk of asteroids, I’d suggest getting in some poetry reading while you still can. After all, you never know when a giant flaming rock might cut your reading days short. Although recently, I’ve heard talk of scientists trying to find new ways to deflect asteroids, like with laser beams and whatnot…I wonder if any of that stuff would actually work out? Anyway, if you wanna hear a funny song about dinosaurs/asteroids, check this one out on Youtube.

I had to put this here.

I had to put this here.