After half my human life, 36
Years, more than a billion heartbeats,
And before me, 200 thousand
Generations since we first stood and walked
And held the things of this world in our hands,
67 million years since the sky
Broke open and out of the darkness crawled
And flew the small feathered and furred survivors,
3 billion years after the catastrophic
Oxygen poisoning of this planet
Lost in the spiral arm of a galaxy
Whose central black hole swallows stars by thousands,
15 billion years since the vacuum sang
Light and light and more light and from nothing
There came this space,

I lie down on a cot


At night, with you, and wait for clouds to clear,
So we can watch 5 billion year old rocks
Burn. We call them the Perseids, because
Most seem to fall from a patch of sky
Where people, 3 thousand years ago,
Saw the shape of Perseus, whose polished shield
Killed Medusa, whose severed head petrified
The serpent who would have killed Andromeda,
And they are figured in the stars nearby.


But when the clouds do clear, I can't see them.
I can find the patterns, matching each star
With the guide I've xeroxed from the News and Observer,
But no hero. No terrible snake-haired woman,
No sign of that story I can't believe,
One of the thousand stories telling us
That gods made the world for their pleasure
And our pain, that Woman and Serpent are One
And Man must tame them with the Sword
Or die—No. I see stars. Just stars. Ancient light,
Thousands of years old, light from other suns.


I turn to you, beside me, to say something
Of all this, and find you crying, too,
For the beauty and terror of the real,
For what we've lost by telling the wrong stories,
Wanting to find the lost water, the lost
Breath of night, the light of star after star,
Light screaming as it shifts red and darkens,
Light of iron burning through the sky
August after August, finding this night,
Wanting to rest, wanting to sleep, wanting
To wake into a life made human, a life
Of things given by the sun and made human—
The oak and pine woods, this field, this city,
Human work and speech and our own bodies,
Your breath on my neck when I'm inside you,
Life's water passing between us,
And light at dawn. Wanting to make the world,
And live in it.


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