With One Eye Closed Picture

Written between 26 Sept. 2006 and 15 May 2007. I went out to the dirt parking lot of the defunct Sedona Cultural Park in West Sedona, AZ, with the intention of watching shooting stars which I hadn't seen in months and writing a poem. Somehow, the poem became about my father.

Took the photo for a new book I'm publishing.

Staring at the Milky Way With One Eye Closed
26 Sept. 2006-15 May 2007

Staring at the Milky Way with one eye closed
details in the clouds of shapes elude pinpointing
the brightest ones egotistically outshine their humble siblings
burning their age-old sociology over distance and time
only now reaching my half-blind awareness

if I lay still for an hour
the whole sky rotates enough for me to feel
the morning hours away
but for now, the night holds sway
that dark Earth below holds its secrets
coyotes yelp in their hide-and-seeks between the lights
marking the miles between irrelevant cities

I haven’t seen shooting stars in months
and the eager sky readily supplies signal flares on the periphery
as if they lamented my absence too

but in the tender brilliance of falling stars
sending goodbyes to satellites
stereoscopic disability flattens everything into two dimensions

denied depth, the hazy constellations stand near enough
to reach out and reorder as if i spilled them on velvet
i reached up with both hands
and gazed at each one through my fingers
and pretended for a moment i was god,
and I remember feeling this childlike before ...

although the days tick by in perfect chronological sequence
the specks above tonight measure the same distance apart as always
and the constellations remain impervious
to our rearrangements, reinterpretations and renamings

you see, I learned all their names once
at the same time I was structuring the proper order of the alphabet
my father, raised in a family too poor to afford telescopes,
would relate the stories of each one as we lay on the roof
cheaper than television
we shared the stars

he explained how geometric shape of hunter, virgin and beast
came to rise from earthly mothers
into Greek mythology
and into the heavenly bodies
we still use to find our way home

what stories he had heard at the same age I was
and remembered until he had a son
and which ones he manufactured at the moment
to keep my childish attention skyward
I’m still uncertain because I lost him years ago

but taken from this soil
and raised into the cosmos for a night
I sailed on the satellite of his voice into the exosphere
as he surreptitiously showed me
how all science fiction writers
came to dream their space opera epics

you see, their fathers instilled in them
the dream of sailing between

the Dark Side

and the Light

but the distance between stars is not measured in parsecs
but in the imagination of a boy thinking his father is godlike
because if you tilt your head ... just so
and remember that even angels
paint connect-the-dots pictures
the clump to the right in the shape of an arrow
with the semi-circle that arcs out from the side
really does look like a hunter
if you believe the man who tells you it does
and when he asks
if you can see it
for the first time in your young life
the way you see the world actually matters to someone
because it means he’s doing the right thing

“Yes, dad, I see the hunter,
he chases through the clouds and gases hiding in the shadows and staying downwind of his prey.
You can tell by the way the Milky Way is drifting to the Southwest tonight”

and in the stars I had my father
he told me the stories of the placement
and calculated the precise mathematics:
“These two stars will always be the distance between two fingers.”
“That constellation is always the breadth of one palm,
if you stretch out your thumb to touch that star first.”

the measurements in the heavens never change
because they give us a path home
despite the distance we grow from it
I wish I had known that then,
because I would have told that boy
to place his father somewhere in the heavens
so that he would forever know
the number of steps it takes to find him
but this rotating world
hides the stars behind the sun for half a day
and in the daylight
my father found a place to hide from me
so now I can’t even find him in the night

I still have the stars and the stories
but the man who taught them to me
disappeared into them both
so never ask me again why I don’t believe in God
look to the stars,
find him,
sketch out what points define his shape
and point him out to a boy still on a rooftop
tell him you can see god
in the geometry of random placement
because to me, today
those shape are just specks
I know anyone can rename the constellations
the measurements above never change
but we don’t learn from their loyalty
how to live
so if you find a man who looks like me
with twenty more revolutions on his face
lying on a rooftop, measuring the distance between stars with his fingers
tell him to stop counting
because the mathematics of the constellations never change
no matter how many satellites we send up to double-check
it’s the people down below who grow apart
and most never find a way back home

but sometimes there are boys
who remember they way fathers could be godlike
when they were too young
and too stupid to know any better

but on some nights like these,
when that boy,
now this poet
gazes skyward with one eye open
he imagines that his father is alongside him
and for a while,
before his vision gets hazy
a certain mass of glowing dots
really does look like a hunter
heading back across the heavens
to teach his son
everything he knows
about hunting stars
Continue Reading: Sun