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Night | School | Wanting | Losing | Finding | Flying | Chance | On Foot | Turns | Confidence | New York | Favorite sequence

Wakefulness (Orionids)

Other nights
I have dismissed the darkness,
forgetting in sleep
the all-but-empty sky

Call me an eager acolyte
of the rational tradition --
I thought magic a wispy phantom,
conjured in insufficient dreams

I should have known --
I saw shooting stars the last three nights,
burning brilliantly out of nowhere
against an idle background,

just when I had finally concluded
that I knew every constellation,
when I had weighed the sky
and found it wanting

Between my lips,
your kiss lingering there,
I still feel the magic that
shakes the very stars from the heavens

I am too wise
to hope too much
yet I am happy to find that
I am smiling, out of nowhere

-- 1991

Under Stars at Night (Orionids Part Two)

Running under the stars at night,
I am accompanied by the rhythm of my footfalls
and the wordless, patient whisper of my breath

Sprinklers hiss moistly, invisibly,
preparing the ground for the onset of desert morning

A teenage couple lingers in the cone of a street light,
embracing at the curb, the car door standing open
Their date is over but their evening is not --
not just yet

A face gritty with razor stubble flares into existence,
glowing dull red from a cigarette lighter,
then disappears a second later into the blank darkness,
leaving only a bobbing red dot
which soon also fades from sight

The Orionid meteor shower has returned:
fifteen times the earth has swung imperturbably around
to trouble this patch of sky,
fifteen years since I last wrote of it
And what?  I am still wakeful,
and another kiss lingers between my lips

I am much stronger now,
somewhat wiser,
and a little grey --
once again starting over,
and still taken by surprise
by the reliable inconstancy of the heavens

Now I turn to run directly into it,
finally doubting no more,
permitting the radiance
to pierce me straight through

-- Fall 2006, 12:26 a.m.

Orionids Part Three

It is 3 a.m.
I am suddenly and inexplicably blinking and awake
This year my daughter sleeps next to me,
with her sleeping bag close and warm around her ears

Earlier, lying there looking up,
we traced out constellations
She told me messages she read in the stars
I saw only wordless points and figures of light
She told me, Daddy, you have to believe in magic

The earth, with us riding along,
has made its annual plunging return through the Orionids
Shocked and scorched by the sudden atmosphere,
a few of them end a billion years of silent flight
in a radiant burst --
afire for seconds at most,
but oh, the beauty

-- October 2007

Meteor Shower Part Four

Still awake in the dark
one vacation weekend,
we're sitting on the hood of the car,
in the warm breeze
looking up

She's jaded now,
no longer eight but almost fourteen
The starry vault of the heavens
has pivoted around in its slow entirety a half-dozen times,
through winter constellations and summer
Math is boring
One boy is jealous of the way she talks to another boy
Hoops dangle from her ears
Self-aware, she knows what her hair looks like at every moment
And she knows good coffee from bad

She points and says,
"Hey Dad, did you see that shooting star?
Do you remember watching for them when I was little?"

... Does not a forest
... remember the very rain that nourished it?

-- July 2013, 11:02 p.m.

Meteor Shower Part Five

Through the tent flap
framed by sharp black pine silhouettes
to left and right,
moonless sky glows less dark;
Sirius and Procyon
shine faithful and radiant
near old Orion

Almost sixteen now
High school half over
She tells me things now that scare
me but not her

She pitched the tent
and made half of dinner

    Six months old
    in bright red footie jammies
    she grinned and giggled
    as I held her aloft

A meteor shoots left

    At fifteen months she first wobbled to her feet
    grinning again

And another

    Before any of that,
    Her mother and I talked alone outside one night
    about this time of the evening
    about the idea of her:
    What if we ...

She sleeps

I sleep

Before dawn
in the same black-pine silhouetted frame
through the same tent flap
now strides Scorpio, high and elaborate

another side of the sky

-- March 2015, 3:48 a.m.

Meteor Shower Part Six

My lover and I alone on a pier at night
Perseids this time of year
Skies clear; quiet chatting;
familiar late-summer constellations all in their places
An I-think-I-saw-it or two from the corner of my eye
  -- and then --
a bolting bolide trailing bright green fire
    fully halfway across the dark star-salted sky,
leaving no doubt,
not even requiring poetic license

Same week
my daughter
  she of the footie jammies,
  she of the 3 a.m. tent-flap,
called -- happily, overflowingly happily -- with the expectant news
and it all begins again,
another cosmic cycle

A grandson as third copy of the self?
Certainly not; we are all of us different,
paths crossing just a bit in space,
lifespans overlapping just a bit in time,
personalities intersecting at the occasional inside joke
and the way-back-when memories
and some shared hopes
for more irreplaceable brief sudden-bright moments
such as this

-- August 2022, 11:53 p.m.

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