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Stargazing in Morelia

Karen Shenfeld
From:   The Fertile Crescent. Toronto: Guernica, 2005.


for Stephen Watson

In the nautical twilight, you emerged
from the stone hold of your rooms.
Sensing motion you could not feel,

you fixed your place on terracotta
swept fresh as a deck. By
your own calculation, one hundred

and one degrees and seven minutes west
of Greenwich; nineteen degrees and forty
minutes north of the equator. "Knowledge,"

you repeated to me, "is a prerequisite
for love," and cocked your neck back to catch
the evening star. No star, but a wanderer.

You told me the warriors of this land
called her K'urhiata K'erhi, tracked
her path across the celestial sphere.

You saw what they saw with your naked eye.
Traced the arc of the ecliptic from Venus to
Jupiter, your pupils dilated, round as moons.

Then moved about the patio, aligning your
line of sight with tiles along the roof. One
by one, you named aloud the stars of winter's

hexagon. Counter-clockwise from Capella,
(whose yellow light bloomed at your birth)
to Aldebaran (the Bull's red eye).

The night was clear as Egypt's. On a marble
tabletop: your tattered field guide to the universe;
your flashlight, red cellophane blunting its bulb.

"Constellations are but convenient fictions,"
you said, then raised your right arm
to single out Orion's belt of pearls. You were

my ancient mariner, sailing
six and a half thousand feet above
the level of the sea. For some men,

stars still hold their sway. Afternoons,
I find you staring unblinking at the
too bright sky, the force of your gaze

bringing each heavenly point to light.



Karen Shenfeld's works copyright © to the author.


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