First Astronomy Globe

By Stephanie Burt

Incapable of glowing
under my own light, I spin
instead. I do my best work when you are in bed,
either quiet & wide-eyed, or else asleep & unknowing,
& though I have an infinite supply
of darkness & silence, I let it all go by,
preferring not to scare you with the void.
I cut up my space into parts, & the parts fit in
to stories: the boy who grew a giant fin,
for example, & others you made up, the anteater’s tail,
the trapezoid you named the cellular phone
absurd or anachronistic, but no more so
than the camel, the hunter’s belt and torso,
the dog star, the giant ladle, the lesser whale,
a cross to light the flags of southerly nations.
A wise
young gazer will memorize
not just the names for made-up constellations—
those dotted lines, those rules religions trace—
but the ranks of the stars themselves: keeping close to my face,
the attentive child past his bedtime sees
dim numbers that connect the faintest dots
to their glow-in-the-dark parameters, the plots
that cut my sphere
into right angles, minutes and degrees.
He finds in that firmament
no sign of human intent,
not even to ask what we are doing here.


Stephanie Burt, “First Astronomy Globe” from Belmont. Copyright © 2013 by Stephanie Burt, originally published as Stephen Burt. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company LLC on behalf of Graywolf Press, All rights reserved.