It’s that time of year again, when the Earth passes through the tail of a comet and our skies light up with shooting stars. (They aren’t stars in the photo, of course; I don’t think they’re even moon daisies: but daytime weeds are a lot easier to photograph than the sky at night.)
In the village in Spain, you only had to step outside onto the lawn and look up, and there was the Milky Way speckle-splashed across the sky as if someone had flicked a paintbrush from one side of the valley to the other.
We would see occasional shooting stars at any time, but I never missed watching when there was a meteor shower forecast.
“Just one more”
It’s 4 a.m. and you stand on the lawn,
knees slightly bent, head back, facing
infinity, scanning for meteors. “Come on;
it’s time for bed,” I Zebedee, but you beg
“Just one more.” And so I watch you
watching for falling stars, diamond scatter
from the Milky Way, and think of the tip-tilt,
star-gazey hare in the moon. “There! look!”
You point skywards, but the pointing finger
roots me firmly to the earth. “Come on,”
I say, but you are galaxies away, determined
to wait for “Just one more.”
Living there, although there never seemed to be proper seasons, I was well aware of the moon’s cycles and all the major meteor showers.
Except at full moon, I always carried a torch in my pocket if I was coming home late, wary of the rutted road where the dark pooled alongside the river and then the brambles along the bridle path. The path should have been wide enough for a laden donkey, but the neighbours disagreed about boundaries and I was lucky they left me any access at all.
As I walked home from the village at night, I’d be watching for the light on the verandah; I’m not a huge Tolkien fan, but immediately it came into view, I’d think of Rivendell – the Last Homely House.
Here in the UK, I’ve been told it’s impossible to walk for a mile in any direction without coming across a man-made road or track, and light pollution blocks out most of the stars; I don’t remember the last time I saw the moon, let alone a shooting star.
I don’t have any new star poems, then, but this post brings together some pieces from the past to make a small “star feature”.
The night I met you fire flared in the skies
and seams of gold were visible across
the coalmine dark. Nature had purged the dross
of normal life, it seemed. We raised our eyes
to watch with joy as stars fell round about:
each one a dream of summer love, a wish,
each an unspoken promise, each a kiss
that fanned desire and silenced truth and doubt.
And so we boldly told each other lies,
pretending to believe they could come true;
we watched those stars like lovers, though we knew
that we could not escape existing ties.
At heart, we knew the stars are fixed, not free,
set in their courses, much like you and me.
Of course if you have the right attitude, there are other places where you see shooting stars. I didn’t ever see meteor scatter at the beach where this piece was written, but there was a night when I saw the white horses galloping in in the crests of the waves.
Postcard from the beach
The weather is nice…
The sun is dropping
diamonds on the sea.
I squint against the glare
and see a storm
of shooting stars that fall
too fast to single one
and make a wish.
Yet this whole moment
is a wish for you.
Now let’s go back to the Perseids, and end on a positive note:
Watching shooting stars,
your arm around my shoulders:
no need for wishes