Heavy Enough to Fall Under Gravity, by Kathleen Hellen

The statues never move, and so I guess
the three dogs in my neighbor’s window are
the rumor, not the guards. I tie on shoes

like shafts, intending,
an arrow pointing north or south, depending….
There was pleasure, yes…in the beginning:
reading comets in catastrophes, goddesses in rapeseed, ravaging
the stars for mysteries. Once, a stranger on the street stopped. What a smile!

What guile in harp-sound, in appearances.
I bag my thoughts to run the tunnel. What wonder
rises like the hand in front of my face? What lies
behind the fog, on the edge of the dome
of the galaxy? If not for fortune’s slip…
If I want the tiger’s cub,
I must go into the lair…
I’d slurp the noodles—but in the planetarium of my tv,
a pinkish light leads me
along the sea coast with the turtles hatched and mismatched to the stars
we mimic. The music of the spheres’ a purr, a lulling.
The red wind drooling. Dead drift the leaves left hunkered, fencing.
The sky all phlegm. A ragged breathing. The city’s smudged grey flame I once
believed in as a campfire, all my lit and cindered inquiries
adapted to these deprivations.
Would I even know
the questions?


About “Heavy Enough to Fall Under Gravity”: “In the documentary The City Dark, American Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson was quoted as saying, “I don’t know of a civilization that didn’t have some kind of a mythology about the night sky.” I live in Baltimore under the illuminated dome of electric lights. The last time I saw the night sky was when I lived in West Virginia 15 years ago. The poem arrived when I began to think about the effects of light pollution on our relationship to the natural world, and how the deprivation of stars is linked to the absence in our civilization of a navigating mythology. Most failed stars have clouds and rain, according to NASA, and so the poem’s title—rain, that is water heavy enough to fall under gravity—references the loss.”

Kathleen Hellen is the author of the collection Umberto’s Night (2012), winner of the Jean Feldman Poetry Prize from Washington Writers’ Publishing House, and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Loved Mothra (2010) and Pentimento, forthcoming.


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