And especially were we led to cultivate that discipline developed in respect to divine and heavenly things as being the only one concerned with the study of things which are always what they are…
— Ptolemy, Preface to The Almagest
- My daughter’s eyes dissolve in tears that turn
- Her irises to violent shades of plum.
- There’s not a single star to which she’s born
- But romance has its seasons — some that come
- With flowers, some to desolate the heart
- (For heaven knows what breaks the heart — in whole or part).
- Perhaps she feels her orbit tilts askew,
- A teen-aged Pluto — distant, uncontained…
- She casts her face against the residue
- Of evening light — the setting sun has gained
- Its nadir. Soon the light that sets is lost;
- The sky turns dark like velvet smirched with quartzose dust.
- I vanquish pedantry’s old urge and bring
- My daughter out beyond the pasture wire
- Where thirsty cattle crowd around a spring
- Of fresh discovery. We stand and stare,
- Our imaginations fixed as hooves in mud,
- To ruminate on star and sky as kine their cud.
- Thus, constellations, clusters, nebulae
- Offer more than a comet’s passing peace;
- Consummate wonder weaves its fabulae
- Of squibs from the Pole Star to Southern Cross —
- And counting up, my daughter can’t recall
- An integer so wholly astronomical.
- Resisting words, I let night speak — or sing —
- For itself, spreading starry charts before
- The autumn equinox. It waits to spring
- October’s Draconids across the door
- And sills of space — and shower eternity
- With falling fire at tears’ escape velocity.
- Returning through the fields, my daughter stops
- To watch as deicidal Draco squirms
- In polar transit. Bright Athena strips
- This worm of tooth and claw, and now he warms
- His arctic blood by sloughing skin for flame
- (Recurring fall to fall, his scales retain his name).
- Beneath this snaking string of pearls, I pray
- My daughter finds each star a widow’s mite —
- Beyond our reach but held within the play
- Of waxing grace, a shepherd satellite
- That casts its shadow on the human soul,
- And governs gravity with love’s more gentle pull.
Joseph O’Brien was born in Freehold, NJ, and lives on a homestead with his wife and nine children in rural Soldiers Grove, WI. He is managing editor of Adoremus Bulletin, a short-story editor for Tuscany Press, Wellesley, Mass., and poetry editor and staff writer (Set ‘Em Up, Joe! and Sheep and Goats) for the San Diego Reader, where his poetry has been published in the past. His poems also have appeared in The Kickapoo Free Press, Dappled Things, America, and Chronicles.