Perspective by Cody Shrum


The autumn wind in Kansas

cools and rustles 200 year-old starlight

winking to me, light hurled

through the hushed black of space

from Orion’s hips, light grown stagnant

like well water in the curve

of the big dipper that was never really there.


Sometimes raw curls of black tobacco

roll from the bowl and stem of a pipe

and hide the four glittered lights of the big dipper’s scoop,

leaving three faint stars my mind shapes

into a curved line, a witch’s bent finger.



Two space men on a distant rock

in a slender arm of the Andromeda

might point with limbs devoid of fingers

at the bright cluster of lights above

that look, they think, remarkably like a penis,


then they use their language of clicks

and screeches to ask each other

why the great, bright penis is painted

on the night ceiling of their world.

They might giggle.


Aliens unable to fathom a planet where the stars

aren’t as interesting, arranged in a big dipper

their monkey brains don’t have words for.

They have a word for penis, though.



Earth. Kansas.

A storm creeps in from the west and I can’t

even see the witch’s bent finger now.

The sky is mauve-black from the reflected

city lights that doesn’t need the sparkle

of a million lit stars to look good,

even though I know they’re still there.

~ Coby Shrum

Cody Shrum is a second-year graduate student at Pittsburg State University, studying Creative Writing with an emphasis in fiction. Cody plans to pursue his MFA degree next fall—an adventure he will embark on with his wife, Kylee, and their two dogs, Zoey and Zeus.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, guest editor for Dec., is the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, author or editor of 19 books, and founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, where she teaches. More on her here.


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