"Thus old Orion does his somersaultacross the heavens..."
It’s the second really cold night of the year here in McHenry County. Still no snow on the ground but the weather guy on one channel says that if we cross our fingers and toes we could get a dusting tomorrow and the sleeveless weather babe on the competition sweeps her arms gracefully in front of the green screen and agrees.
I stepped on the porch to crush some cans for recycling and took in the night sky. There was a light thin and patchy haze through which the brightest stars and planets could be seen and the nearly full Moon high over the house shown in a frosty halo.
Once several years ago on an even colder night I was taking the garbage and recycling out in the wee small hours of the morning to curb pick up. It was one of those crystal nights. I looked up.
Suddenly the Stars
Suddenly the stars
unseen since god knows when—
explode against the Arctic night.
No blank shelf of stratus bars them,
no haze or mist obscures them,
no scudding cirrus race the wind to hide them.
The fierce orange glow of pollution
cannot obscure them.
Thus old Orion does his somersault
across the heavens,
ursine dippers pivot, reel
upon bright Polaris’s steady blaze,
forgotten constellations process
with timeless dignity,
long –lost Milky Way splatters half across the sky.
Once folk knew these stars,
measured life blood by their glow,
fixed on them for certainly against death and chaos,
steered by their light where no marking showed he way,
found their gods among them,
and sacrificed to them in sacred duty.
But years have passed,
these stars unseen, unrecognized,
nor even missed
amid a world of roofs, electric lights,
other things to do, other lives to lead—
until this night,
when they come a calling
and change everything.
This poem appeared in a slightly different form in We Build Temples in the Heart published in 2004 by Skinner House Books of Boston. Autographed copies are available upon request for $8 including postage. Post a request in the comments or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your request and a mail address. I will send a volume winging toward you and let you know where you can send a check.