Astronomy 1

by Harvey Mudd

I paid no mind to the wind and rain;
the clouds, though, these I noticed
for they drifted along the building tops,
and obscured the stars.  Orion,
invisible behind this veil,
had dropped his sword —
somehow I knew this.
But does he carry one ?
— I have forgotten —
or is it something more mundane,
a tire iron, perhaps, or a pen, as I do,
or 5000 kilometers of parachute silk,
the thread that ties me to thee,
linking us, past the ice flows and the oil rigs,
past all the ethical considerations,
past the weeping widow,
“dead,” she said, “we are dead.”
Though I am not.
It’s just a change of profession.

I have become an astronomer
of the heart.  I map stars
that have no names, though I was tempted
to name them all for you.
Romantic silliness
and at my age.

Dante, as he went about finding
his profession, always referred to the woman
he loved as “His Lady.”  But she wasn’t,
so he could not say “my lady.”
Besides, he had no hope.  Nor do I
but I’m less formal
and expect no theology to emerge.

But maps, yes, of dark places and light places.
I find universes within universes.
Some are empty of course,
containing not a book, not a rabbit,
no memory of the Romans, their bridges,
their highways, their brutality,
no wake on the waters
as their warships, oars dipping in unison,
plowed their imperial sea.

But the universe you inhabit,
the empty one’s neighbor, is filled
with wonders, the greatest of them
being you, my lady, but also
with wonderful creatures.
The swift deer, the tusked pig,
a black snake that is sacred to the oracle
of Trophonius, for whom it carried messages,
the bear and the great blue whale,
all these will be safe and unmoving
in the high, black, unmoving firmament.
Even the Andean Condor will be saved
in my cosmology.  I swear to this.

When I die I will be called the Old Tiger,
though why I cannot imagine,
for I’ve not been especially fierce,
but you will find me, ascended,
by the Southern Cross,
a scattering of bright teeth
(the hard parts that do not decay)
and vertebrae, the mark of chordata,
of phylum nostrum.

But for now I am a man.
I have named a constellation after you,
my sweet complex of stars,
but since you reject me,
I will not speak the name.