After the Stars Fell

“ It slipped down the side of the sky,
passing by the other stars in its course.”
Oscar Wilde, The Star-Child

I. February 15, 2013

We heard the risen, ragged sun caught fire:
first, a shadow charcoaled over Chelyabinsk
and turned the air to gunpowder, then
a constellation of ignited smoke
cinched onto clouds and swam across the sky –
foreign rock transformed to shining yellow
walleye, shedding its molten scales of gold
over the unsuspecting, frozen ground.
We missed it all: the shattered glass and panic,
the ‘end of days’ written in Russian
blood on snow, the moment when the whole
of earth turbined onto herself, begged us
to let her go. We used to read “Old Earth
is dead,” not knowing that the sky would fall.

II. Dream, 1993

Instead of sky, there lies a sleeping black
between the clouds. I’m lost there in uncharted
dark. Sometimes, I am a ship with ghosts
for sails in waves of dying galaxies,
and other times, I’m body floating up
towards Cepheids, blinking blue ignited worlds
like newborn eyes’ first waking, forever
barely out of reach. To dream of falling
is the dream. To wake in flight. On fire.
Because I find a secret home in this,
unseen: the reaching, the return. Twenty years
ahead, the dust of our white dwarf falls
soft, soft as new snow, my mother says. But
in my hands, our star melts down to ashes.

III. Fortuneteller’s Story-Song to My Parents, Timeless

Their question: why’s our child awake at night?

The reading: she dreams her histories, dark,
unresolved past lives. Look how “The Hanged Man”
stands, not hovers, ankle roped in solid air,
he demands, you wait. And cards reversed
won’t lie: the sky does not forgive abandonment.

Wait? For what? Is there nothing we can do?

Give her back. Lift her to the stars she left.
Or, one of you can take her darkness,
carry it. Song and story and night.

But all across the world the stars have fallen.
We have no place when most are orphan,
and all the rest are calling, calling out
for light: child-kings to rise out of the dust.

IV. Sky in May, Today

All are out. Corvus: failed crow, thrown up
for the sky to swallow whole; Virgo: maiden-
mother, setting all her children-lights aglow;
Musca: bright, unnoticed housefly; and
Centaurus, half-man, half-beast, so wounded,
he earned a place among the heavens.
I know them by their history, the way
a heritage is known, so when they stray
from home, go dark, I’ll find them, like a part
of flesh, a sureness felt for during sleep.
This far outside the city, night reaches
the ground. The buried touch the burning and
exchange their fairytale for flight, only
to find a place among uncertain stars.

V. Childhood, Year Unknown

Remember the night the power went out:
Dad balancing atop the skeleton
of an un-built house, reaching for the sky?
Recall the worry: would he find his way
or fall, body glowing against the dark
like that child who fell out of the sky but
never came home again? For calm, you sang
of gypsy fortune tellers fanning cards
across their velvet shawls like universes
they could map and trace and understand.
Look how they shape the future out of suns
beside a campfire that won’t die down?
Mother, sing me the story of that night.
I only remember the lack of light.


*Note: “February 15, 2013”, the opening poem of the sonnet-sequence “After the Stars Fell” first appeared in Berfrois.