Cara Chamberlain


Starry Sky

 

Now I’m older than most people have ever lived to be, but the faithful dogs are still bright,

as close as my fist:

         Vega, Deneb, Arcturus, Procyon, Rigel.

 

* * *

 

Almost 9,000 per year reveal themselves to me as Zeus to Semele.

Yet unlike that poor girl, I understand the game and the spectral fame these bodies own.

 

Bodies?

Specifically minds and bellies.

 

But then, the stars are not gods.

They are engines burning hydrogen to helium, helium to carbon, and all the elements we

call naturally occurring, as if anything’s unnatural.

 

The stars are not engines, of course.

They are uteri, lodging pyramids of ammonia, hidden calcium violet, iron green.

 

They are love letters from slow correspondents, who may be dead—

 

Women are suited to this meticulous work.

Men find it tedious.

 

Oh be a fine girl, kiss me!  

 

* * *

 

Milk of creation spills since the wind has blasted summer smoke of burning forests away to

the continent’s heart.

Here the spruce die of infestations instead of fire.

Yet, the natal billions of years bear down in ancient continuous birthing.

Mountain lions whose favor I’ve dreamed stalk Crystal Lake’s Milky Way ribbon of gleam.

 

 

* The second part of this poem is based on what I have read about Annie Jump Cannon,

who, according to Jacob Berkowitz in Stardust Revolution, “is the greatest star fingerprinter

of all time: between 1896 and her death in 1941, she classified the spectra of an

estimated 395,000 stars.” The third part of the poem is based on a revelation of stars over

the Big Snowy Mountains of Montana. Note: “Oh be a fine girl, kiss me!” is a mnemonic

used to remember the various kinds of stars.

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