Poem | Astronomy

for Katha Pollitt
(Renden Yoder/Unsplash)

You knew it would capture you
that evening you caught the flash
you recognized only after a heartbeat,
a meteorite over the rooflines 
of yet another childhood home.

Months would go by—even years—before another like it
broke into your life, but it didn’t matter. The secrets
were all you hungered for by then, 
accompanied by charts and websites,
while your peers went to the party
or the winery, the beach or the fair,
leaving you behind.

How many light years ago
was that? How many weddings
forgone, how many promises
left unvoiced?

Take the cap off another lens.
Climb another flint-backed ridge, 
your own breath the only life.
Let another desert cool under
the empty multitude—

here it comes, the solitary
predawn where under that 
abyss you’ll come nowhere
close to the beginning,

hostage again to the focus 
and the stubbornly balanced
tripod under the dazzling 
deepfreeze of light.

Published in the January 2021 issue: 
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Michael Cadnum has published nearly forty books, including the National Book Award Finalist novel The Book of the Lion. His most recent book of poetry, Kingdom, includes many poems that first appeared in Commonweal. He is working on a new book of poems, The Promised Rain. He lives in Albany, California.

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