lizbrownlee – poet

Poems, animal info, extraordinary women, my books!

NPD Poem of the Day – To the Unborn, by Helen Laycock

What looks like a barren and inhospitable alien landscape in this 360-degree panorama is in fact the site for ESO’s European Extremely Large Telescope, or E-ELT for short. When construction begins the uninhabited mountaintop left of the centre will become a hive of activity as engineers, technicians and scientists work on building the world’s biggest eye on the sky. In many ways Chile’s Cerro Armazones may seem like an alien world. The environment is harsh, with low humidity and air pressure, a blazing Sun during the day, but breathtaking skies at night. Cerro Armazones is in the Atacama Desert — one of the driest places on Earth. These conditions, combined with its remoteness, are what make the region such an excellent location for telescopes. Armazones is an isolated peak, 3060 metres above sea level. It is about 20 km away from Cerro Paranal, home of ESO's famous Very Large Telescope. Both summits enjoy crisp skies far away from sources of light pollution. Among the ELT’s many science goals is a particularly hot topic in contemporary astronomy: the quest for exoplanets. The E-ELT will search for Earth-like planets orbiting other stars and could even directly image larger planets or probe their atmospheres. The E-ELT’s high-tech instruments will also study the formation of planets in protoplanetary discs around young stars. Detecting water and organic molecules will shed light on how planetary systems are produced, and could bring us one step closer to answering the question of whether we are alone in the Universe. This panorama was taken by ESO Photo Ambassador Serge Brunier. Links  See more stunning panoramas of ESO sites in our virtual tours. ESO Photo Ambassadors webpage.

Image by Stuart Rankin on Flikr by CC license.


A new message poem in the run-up to National Poetry Day, by Helen Laycock:


To the unborn


Sorry is not enough of an apology

for what you are about to receive

upon your birth –

a broken Earth

whose bones we have picked

and whose flesh we have stripped.

We bequeath you: the carcass.


Please forgive our hatred

of our brothers and sisters,

how our minds

wrongly defined

the miracles that we are –

that singular bond amongst the stars.

You inherit: our dysfunction.


Our tears were not enough to wash

away the blood of creatures savaged

for egos and trinkets

as they stopped to drink

from water holes and, shy,

lay beneath the punctured sky.

We leave you: their memory.


Frozen in the now, too late we saw the melt;

ice caps will be your legends

like polar bears

and unsullied air.

From space, no green, just scars…

We clawed our world sparse.

We endow you with: ruin.


You are the wardens, the short-changed, the healers.

Please clear up the debris

of greed and decay.

We were led astray.

We looked away and heard

messages we preferred.

We pass on: our regret.



© Helen Laycock





  1. beautifully sad but true.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Once I started, Liz, I could have gone on and on. There was still so much more that I could have commented on… which is very sad, yes.


  2. That brought tears to my eyes – especially the third stanza. Beautifully expressed, Helen.

    Susan at
    Travel, Fiction and Photos

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I showed it to my daughter, she filled up too. Thank you for your kind words, Susan.


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