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.
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.