after Endymion and Selene
I have watched you swing from light to shadow,
and back again. Your chariot was made of black moonstone.
Your four horses, dappled in the colors of season,
left behind a streak of chalk in their wake.
Had you a human face? I wanted to reach up and stroke
the contours of your elegant face as you stared ahead.
Was it a race? I didn’t see spectators.
Whose road were you following? I didn’t see signposts.
Constellations seemed like maps flung aside with abandon.
They seemed to float like haloes around your head.
Did you ever notice me? I was just a shepherd.
All I saw with my naked eyes was a mysterious woman
with a face that shone the way for ships lost at sea
and lonely men wondering about the stars.
Having nothing better to do, I notated your phases.
You tried to mask your face whenever you could.
Sometimes I felt you were playing hide-and-seek
behind billowing towers of cumulus.
Then one night you stopped your chariot and floated down
to me amidst my sheep sleeping and whispered a lie
so preposterous I wasn’t sure if I’d heard you correctly.
You said I was the most beautiful mortal you’d ever seen
ever since you took the reins to control the vicissitudes
of night. Not possible, I said. The glow from your face
lulled me into a sleep that I didn’t know would last
for centuries to come. You wanted me immortal
in the act of repose so you could gaze upon me
whenever you felt pangs of loneliness.
I would awaken only at dawn, wondering again
what dream I’d just imagined and lost.
Were you in it? Did we make love?
Or had you lied to me all over again?
One day we will writhe in moondust.
Our prayers will be more than stars.
We stand together, sisters of the porch,
our bodies remembering the raw scorch
of chisel hammering away
our tender marble to display
how we held the weight
of our hips, the plait
of hair down
to our gowns,
embraced by sun.
But they weren’t done.
Men with massive shoulders
of strength to move boulders
sheathed us in cloth and rope
as they dragged up the slope.
Then we were tilted up and forward,
pushed and aligned as ordered.
This took them a few days.
No one held us in praise
of our uniform bevy.
They complained how heavy
we were. If we were their mothers,
they’d have treated us like feathers,
with utmost kindness and respect.
We didn’t know what to expect,
but certainly not this beam
squelching our dreams.
Each night on this damn porch
we await the flicker of torch.
Our mouths are born to sin.
We should know better than to gulp
down 32 ounces of sugared water
but damn, there’s something unredeemable
about those endless highways of
nowhere paved over with bitterness
that drive us to seek solace in places
where no church can save us.
We shouldn’t be stuffing those alms
of perfectly layered potato chips
laced with the sodium of addiction
into our mouths. Asking for help is hard.
We shouldn’t be grateful for such dirty shame,
but our souls are gluttons for redemption.
Spray my dream soul across the skies
up north where winters are long.
It is made of wisp, threads, grit.
Maybe there’s a stocking of coal.
But no matter.
All you see is the green of spleen,
with flares of yellow spring.
I have no words left to describe
the outline of dreamery,
many now that are black holes,
gracing the crown of sky.
We will not be long for this earth.
Scientists are sounding warning bells
about our thinning ozone layer.
We have been such fools.
We have squandered so much,
and for what?
Maybe one day dreamers
more strong-willed than I
will arch back with their bows
and shoot stars that can thread
entire lives into a single line
stitching up the holes in our lives.
Raymond Luczak is the author and editor of 29 books, including the poetry collections Chlorophyll (Modern History Press), Lunafly (Gnashing Teeth), and once upon a twin (Gallaudet University Press), which was chosen as a U.P. Notable Book for 2021. His latest title is A Quiet Foghorn: More Notes from a Deaf Gay Life (Gallaudet University Press). His work has appeared in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Image by NGC 54, CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.