Academic journal article Chicago Review

What the Stars Meant

Academic journal article Chicago Review

What the Stars Meant

Article excerpt

On a backwards-running clock in Lisbon,

By the marble statue of Pessoa;

On an antique astrolabe in London

Tracing out the sky above Samoa,

Thousands of miles away-in time, in place,

Each night conspires to create a myth

That stands for nothing real, yet leaves you with

The vague impression of a human face.

The fragments fly apart and shift, trembling

On the threshold of a kind of fullness:

The minor wonder of remembering;

The greater wonders of forgetfulness.

For one looks back as someone else might yearn

For a new life, and set his course upon

The polestar, bid his adieus, and move on.

The journey takes a solipsistic turn,

Forsaking starlight for an inner glow,

And reducing all human history,

All human culture-highbrow, middle, low --

To one reflecting surface, one story.

What fills the heaven of a single mind?

The things that used to fill Kant's mind with awe

- "The starry heavens and the moral law" --

Seem distant now, and difficult to find

Amid the message of satiety

Issuing from the corners of the sky,

Filled with monotonous variety:

Game shows, an interview with Princess Di,

And happy talk, and sitcoms and the news,

The shit that floats across your living room

Each weekday evening. Waiting in the pews,

Out in the desert where the cacti bloom,

Something else was forming, something stranger

Gathering in the gulf below the stairs --

As though the mystery of the manger

Were written in the day-to-day affairs

Of a world consecrated to Mammon,

Yet governed by those sacred absences

That make the spirit soar, and presences

At one remove, like the sound of Cuban

Drumbeats issuing from the Ricardos'

Love-nest on the television station

Like distant thunder; or Leonardo's

"Wave that flees the site of its creation."

In the desert far beyond the city,

One hears the cadences for which one longs,

The lyrics of those half-forgotten songs,

- Some of them poignant, some of them witty --

Brimming with the melody of passage;

One feels the wind that blows the soul about,

Repeating its inscrutable message;

And as night falls, one sees the stars come out. …

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