Mounting his best mule, Alcibiades,
Dad whistled after his two favorite dogs.
Riding away, he pitched the keys to Rose.
Sandwiches stuck out of his saddlebags.
'Later, when I get back, if you're all good,
We'll cogitate a while: why should the ash
From some exploded star furnish our blood
With iron? ... Is God clowning around?
Out of my files, guys.... Download the W.O.R.M.S.,
But don't go digging around AFTER DARK—
Your mom and I have plans for that. In forms
You can't imagine now.' Dogs want to bark
To get him going, but one hard look from Dad
And they lower their heads, and cringe. The one,
A blue mastiff named Claude, knows being bad
Means no fresh rabbit, but the other, Rin,
A border collie, behaves out of pure
Sweet nature. Dad looks back, 'Thanks to the free
Energy we get from our sun! It's clear
We all ought to behave, we oughta be
Children, as drunk with happiness as lords.'
With that prescription, he goads the big mule.
About a minute, we ponder his words.
The river beckons. Should we go to school
Or fish? ...
Long after dark, the galaxy
Laying its stream from northeast toward the south
Horizon, the world's complexity
Assailed our minds. Rose first opened her mouth—
To sing, to soothe us—waiting on the deck,
Watching cold stars, for Dad to reappear.
Out of the north, we guessed. It's better luck
Not to hope hard. To us, it seemed our star
Was on the rise. Baleful Arcturus shone
Orange-red in the southeast, and Antares
Gleamed, the deep red heart of the Scorpion.
'Bear Watcher,' 'Rival of Mars.' We'd learned these
As was required. 'Twenty-one brightest stars
At a bare minimum, so that we know
Where in the world we are standing, my dears.'
The Milky Way glimmered. Trying to throw
Us off, the great world spinning, round and round.
We watched the cat pick a pack rat apart.
Fascinated, repelled, we held our ground,
And didn't look away. She held the heart
Delicately. The head lay to one side.
Sidus, sideris.... Which stars are blood red?
Our sun's found in what star atlas—We bleed
Our own star's light. How many stars have bled
Their lives away, for us? Last thing we need
Is someone laying that guilt on our head.
We all went in, and brushed our teeth, and peed.
And one by one we wandered off to bed.
Poems by Jamie Irons:
Hearing, But Not Seeing, a Cardinal
TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets