Going abruptly into a starry night
It is ignorance we blink from, dark, unhoused;
There is a gaze of animal delight
Before the human vision. Then, aroused
To nebulous danger, we may look for easy stars,
Orion and the Dipper; but they are not ours,
These learned fields. Dark and ignorant,
Unable to see here what our forebears saw,
We keep some fear of random firmament
Vestigial in us. And we think, Ah,
If I had lived then, when these stories were made up, I
Could have found more likely pictures in haphazard sky.
But this is not so. Indeed, we have proved fools
When it comes to myths and images. A few
Old bestiaries, pantheons and tools
Translated to the heavens years ago—
Scales and hunter, goat and horologe—are all
That save us when, time and again, our systems fall.
And what would we do, given a fresh sky
And our dearth of image? Our fears, our few beliefs
Do not have shapes. They are like that astral way
We have called milky, vague stars and star-reefs
That were shapeless even to the fecund eye of myth—
Surely these are no forms to start a zodiac with.
To keep the sky free of luxurious shapes
Is an occupation for most of us, the mind
Free of luxurious thoughts. If we choose to escape,
What venial constellations will unwind
Around a point of light, and then cannot be found
Another night or by another man or from other ground.
As for me, I would find faces there,
Or perhaps one face I have long taken for guide;
Far-fetched, maybe, like Cygnus, but as fair,
And a constellation anyone could read
Once it was pointed out; an enlightenment of night,
The way the pronoun you will turn dark verses bright.
 
Reprinted from Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems by William Meredith, published by Triquarterly Books/Northwestern University Press in 1997. Copyright (c) 1997 by William Meredith. All rights reserved; used by permission of Northwestern University Press and the author.

Poems by This Author

Envoi by William Meredith
Go, little book. If anybody asks
In Loving Memory of the Late Author of Dream Songs by William Meredith
Friends making off ahead of time
Last Things by William Meredith
In the tunnel of woods, as the road
Parents by William Meredith
What it must be like to be an angel
Rhode Island by William Meredith
Here at the seashore they use the clouds over & over
The Illiterate by William Meredith
Touching your goodness, I am like a man


Further Reading

Poems of Queer Experience
Abandonment Under the Walnut Tree
by D. A. Powell
Antique
by Arthur Rimbaud
At a Dinner Party
by Amy Levy
At the Touch of You
by Witter Bynner
Blue
by May Swenson
Calamus [In Paths Untrodden]
by Walt Whitman
El Beso
by Angelina Weld Grimké
elegy for kari edwards
by Julian T. Brolaski
Elegy in Joy [excerpt]
by Muriel Rukeyser
He would not stay for me, and who can wonder
by A. E. Housman
I Built a Fire
by Natalie Clifford Barney
Langston Blue
by Jericho Brown
Love Returned
by Bayard Taylor
Lullaby
by W. H. Auden
On the Road to the Sea
by Charlotte Mew
Queer
by Frank Bidart
syntax
by Maureen N. McLane
The Embrace
by Mark Doty
The Hug
by Thom Gunn
The Next Table
by C. P. Cavafy
Tonight No Poetry Will Serve
by Adrienne Rich
Poems About Outer Space
A Clear Midnight
by Walt Whitman
Back Yard
by Carl Sandburg
Bright Star
by John Keats
Comet Hyakutake
by Arthur Sze
I'm Over the Moon
by Brenda Shaughnessy
Let Evening Come
by Jane Kenyon
Mars Poetica
by Wyn Cooper
Moon Gathering
by Eleanor Wilner
Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck (Sonnet 14)
by William Shakespeare
Now that no one looking
by Adam Kirsch
Orion
by Susan Gevirtz
She Walks in Beauty
by George Gordon Byron
Sky
by Anzhelina Polonskaya
Skylab
by Rolf Jacobsen
Star Quilt
by Roberta J. Hill
The Falling Star
by Sara Teasdale
The Star
by Jane Taylor
The Truth About Northern Lights
by Christine Hume
To the Moon [fragment]
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Yellow Stars and Ice
by Susan Stewart