700 light-years from Earth
a cosmic nursery births baby stars
like a stray cat giving birth
to a litter of kittens.
Suckling at the teat of the Universe
they feed on gas and matter,
clinging to Mother,
eager for life.
700 light-years from where
a newborn star explodes to life
an old man stumbles towards home.
He cannot hear the newborn cry
nor see the face of the proud mother,
as proud of this one as she is of
the countless billions that came before.
It will be 700 years before the infant’s Light
reaches where he stands now.
His liver will have drowned
in the whiskey he drinks
long before then.
Several months ago I had a dream. I don’t recall what the dream was about, but when I woke up one thing kept playing over in my mind and that was “700 light years from Earth”. I looked this up and found that there is a stellar nursery about 700 light years away in the constellation Perseus. The phrase has kept play over, and over in my mind. I knew from the start that it would be either a poem or a story (still time for both), but it looks like the poem came first. This one was a bit harder for me than most. It is a bit…disjointed(?), but it fits what I wanted, at least for me it does.
When the end came it was a surprise to everyone. The sky looked the same as it did the day before. The birds sang and the flowers bloomed. Clouds drifted lazily through a deep blue sky. Children played blissfully unaware of the precious hours they had left. Had there been a way to prevent it, they would surely have tried. The government would have made decrees, issued laws, setup shelters. They knew nothing though. Life, for a time, simply carried on. The people lived in what peace they were accustomed to. So businesses opened on time. Commuters complained about their ride to work. Babies cried. Lovers made love.
Those who had looked to the skies for their destruction for a thousand years would have been disappointed. It didn’t come from the sky. It didn’t come from the land. It simply came. There was no buildup. No flash. No great explosion. They were there one moment, and not the next. In the wink of an eye an entire species ceased to exist.
Pampas and arrogant as they were, they would have been shocked to learn that the other species that had shared the land with them gave no notice of the change. Birds sang. Flowers bloomed. Clouds drifted lazily through a deep blue sky.
The old man sits alone at the end of the bar. A mug of beer, half full and half empty at the same time, sits in front of him. He stares into the mug and in it he sees his past. Fifty years passed him by in the blink of an eye, and then again another twenty. He tries to drink away his regrets but every sip leaves him thirstier than the last one. The bartender smiles lightly at him as he orders a shot of whiskey. He never drinks it, only inhales the aroma of lost days and abandoned dreams. He spins the whisky on the table in a ritual that only he understands. I watch for a moment, then turn back to my conversation as he orders a second beer. My friend and I talk of nothing, and everything, of meaning and nonsense. A beer or two later I remember the old man and look back to see if he is still there. He is, and he isn’t. His head rests on the bar, a sad smile on his face. The bartender is in a panic. She franticly dials the phone but it is too late. He is there but gone. He died in the only place he ever truly called home. I shed a tear for a man I never met, but knew so very well.
(I promise that one day I will write something a little less…um…sad(?), but for now I will stick with what I know well).
Once upon a time there lived a beautiful princess. She was considered far and wide to be the most beautiful thing that had ever lived. Her eyes sparkled with a joy and life that was envied by those who could not tame her. The palace she lived in was a shining jewel. People would travel from all over the kingdom just to get a look at the palace and perhaps a glimpse of the princess.
Now in the same kingdom there lived a beast of terrible darkness. He lived in a dank, musty hovel of a home deep in the forest. The beast was old and mean. He was angry from many long years of persecution and hate. And most of all from not being loved. Inside the beast was really a gentle soul who just wanted to love and be loved but no one ever cared enough to give him a chance.
One day the princes was out riding and came across the house of the beast. The beast saw her and instantly fell in love with her. Not like the love a man has for a woman, for a beast cannot love so. He fell in love with her like a dog for its master. The beast looked at her from behind soiled curtains as she gracefully dismounted and looked around at the run down house. She knocked gently on the door and the beast’s heart skipped a beat. He was not sure what to do so he opened the door and stood there. From this distance he could smell the perfume the princess wore. He had never smelled anything so lovely in all his long life. It contrasted his own stench in such a way that, had he been able to, he would have blushed a deep red. The princess looked at him for a time and then she spoke. The words cut through his heart and stabbed deep into what we can only assume was his soul.
“My you are a cute beastie”. She said with a smile. She turned and began to walk away. The beast stood motionless unsure of what to do. The princess looked over her shoulder and called to him. “Walk with me.” Instantly the beast was at her side. They walked through the forest for hours. The princess talked sweetly to the beast and he answered with grunts and noises that even he didn’t understand. He tried to make sounds like she did so that she might understand him. But he just couldn’t. She would talk and he would babble. She would laugh and he would babble even more.
The princess began to visit the beast nearly everyday. She would make special trips to his home in the forest just to tell him that she couldn’t take a walk that day. The beast began to think that maybe she cared for him. But how could she? he thought or at least as close to thought as he could get. I am just a beast and she is a princess. She cannot love me. I am no more than a pet to her. The beast began to dread the visits from the beautiful princess. He would sometimes pretend he was gone in the hope she would go away. He would growl and howl something terrible trying to scare her away. Nothing worked. She would visit and they would walk and he would be happy…for a time. When he was with her he felt almost as though he mattered. The beast began to think that maybe there was some magic left in the world. If he could find it he would be able to transform himself into a man and then she could love him. Then she would go back to the palace and he was left alone in his dark home in the forest. He would sit and stare out of his filthy windows and picture her riding up to his gate. He smiled at the thought of her and cried for the same reason.
Then one day after the princess had paid him a long, wonderful visit, the beast sat alone in the dark and realized what he had to do. Beast though he was, he still had feelings. The pain he felt when she left had become too much for him. He knew what a hero would do. The hero would ride up to the palace and pronounce his love. Then he would whisk the beautiful princess away on his white steed and ride into Happily Ever After. But alas he was no hero. He was a mean, sad, angry, lonely beast that no one but her cared about. So he packed what little belongings he had and he left the forest. He traveled the world in the hopes of finding someplace to call his own. Someplace where a beast might be welcomed. He was already old when our story began but he was even older now. It seemed as though the time he had spent with the princess had some magic in it after all. When he was with her it was as if time stood still. He felt young and strong. When she left time took its vengeance. Months felt like years to him. Now that he did not see her he began to age quickly. His once black fur turned gray and began to fall out. His walk was pained and labored. The beast kept moving though for he didn’t know what else he was to do. He traveled mile after mile and found nothing to warm his cold heart. Then one day after many years he sat down against a tree. He closed his eyes and thought of the princess.
The beast had been dead for some time when the hunters found him. He was sitting with his back against the tree where he had stopped. They say that he had what looked like a smile on his face. The hunters buried him under the tree and told their story around the fire on dark and stormy nights. But they never knew what you do now.
I race towards the thought
Daily older, my dreams grow restless.
The Fireman has long since passed on.
The Astronaut never made lift off.
The Cowboy missed the roundup.
I have other dreams now,
These I share with anyone
that will listen.
There are others
I keep for myself,
hidden in the back
of my mind’s hall closet.
They are kin to the Fireman
a sort of distant cousin
that no one talks about.
I keep them hidden for fear of
After all, who am I
to think I can be something
I hear my dreams nightly,
gently tapping at the closet door,
begging for release.
They plead with me to let them out.
I turn the TV louder.
Some days I just get so tired. Hey but we still plug on right? You never know what tomorrow will bring.
I stood on a hill overlooking the ocean. Waves played at the shore like a child licking a piece of forbidden candy. The wind blew in from some far off shore. It made its way inland to destinations only it could understand. Stopping for a moment to inspect my form, the wind tousled my hair. It swirled around me for an instant, and then, bored with its new toy, moved on. In that instant I inhaled deeply, and with that breath I could see where the wind had been. I could see a small boy on the plains of Africa. He ran with all his strength pulling his kite behind him. His tattered shirt, barely covering his bulging stomach, flew out behind him as he ran. The wind circled the boy once, twice, then swooped down and lifted his kite high in the air. The boy’s smile nearly swallowed his face. I could see two young lovers on the deck of a ship far out to sea. They held each other close talking of times to come. The wind moved in and blew the young girl’s hair into her eyes. Her lover gently wiped it back, looking deep into her eyes. I saw a young girl running through a meadow. Her long blond hair raced behind her trying vainly to keep up. Her father stood at the fence waiting for her, his heart broken. He must tell the girl of her mother’s death. She could not see the tears in his eyes. The wind could. I could. The wind gently caressed the man’s cheek trying to comfort him. I could see the families in Colorado, huddled together against the cold and pain. The caskets were being lowered into the ground. The wind stayed an instant, blowing dirt into the graves as a tribute, and then was off again. I went with the wind as it nuzzled the cheek of a newly born child in the Siberian wasteland. The wind knew that on it’s next trip the child would not be there. Death plays no favorites. The wind was with me for an instant, then gone. In that instant I felt its joy and its pain. We are on this earth for a short time. The wind is eternal. It has traveled this world since the beginning. It has seen us at our best and at our worst. It circles the globe, screaming its fury, in the hope of finding an end, but finds only horizon.