The Guide

When I look up at the night sky–
Well, there are trees, of course.  Mountains and clouds
And city lights
It’s not ideal.
But I can pretend I see, say, Vega, from the sidewalk just across the street–
And dozens of other nameless stars–
Nameless to me, I mean.
I have no doubt you could call them to you
If you wanted, you could call them to you like cats
Each name a warm and furry picture in your mind
(False color, if you were feeling frivolous.)
And they would answer, meekly, a purr or plaintive meow
As they twined their silken tails around your feet.

I know the sky is different
For you, there in your ancient, much-razed city.
We had a fire, here, once.
It did the place good.
They rise from the ashes of the old, they do: cities born from cities slain–
The ranks of lifeless stony ruins–
Lifeless to me, I mean.
I have no doubt that if I walked the buried streets
In your dreams, they would come alive
Like pulsing veins of quicksilver
(Good news: Mercury’s no longer in retrograde.)
Then rush upwards into the liquid night
To form the lines between the stars that make the constellations plain.

Do winged sandals carry you between the realms?
Or are they more symbolic than strictly functional?
Thought serves just as well.
It travels at the speed of light–
Not, of course, in a vacuum.
Guide me not to the river where souls flock to be reborn;
Forgetfulness is death to those who live to laugh and mourn.
Find for me instead a clearing on a mossy hill
Beside a cattailed stream, where bullfrogs count the hours.
Then drink with me, dear heart,
There in the summer dark–
I will listen while you sing
A shining tale of star-crossed love that never dies
And I, though blind, will see it through your eyes.

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Image: Shingo Takei

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