A Star Is Too Far


Through water iridescent
fish whip.
Through darkness effervescent
stars slip.
Travelers incessant:
Some never see the spreading sky
Some go and go and never by.


Stone laid out in range on range
that stared up at the newborn sky
has stretched out here at last to lie
miles beneath the world gone strange.
Earth, the universal grave,
here lies entombed in wave on wave.


But a star is too far:
Long-kindled height;
Irrational sprite
of a body since dead;
Arrow of gold from an archer since fled;
Hovering spark
from fire gone dark;
Prick in the night;
Merry distant torches alight,
lining the roads of an upside-down park.

6 thoughts on “A Star Is Too Far

  1. I picture a person standing at night somewhere between a coastal Highway and the shore, rather near the water (because he can see the colors of fish scales) but close enough to the highway to hear the dull roar of tires moving along concrete. There are lots of passing cars, so that the effect is an illusion of sameness–they never manage to go “by.”

    The person starts thinking about the slow transformation in geography caused by the combined forces of weathering, erosion, and plate tectonics. Mountains and hills that long ago might seem to have almost touched the night sky, or at least have wondered at its beauty–these rocky peaks are now under the Sea as if in a kind of watery graveyard–easier to contemplate than (use of transition word “but”) the death of stars by exploding or just burning out, an event which doesn’t actually seem like a death because the light of these stars is still visible, a kind of spirit existence, as close as nature can get to immortality.

    There is a sadness about beauty that goes unappreciated (colors of the spectrum revealed by starshine on water, contrast between darting movement of fish and subtle change, “slip,” in the position of stars throughout the night) and misunderstood (transformation of landscapes) — but there is also a childlike joy resident in nature, a celebration of the mystery of spirit (represented in the tiny light from far away stars) and an irony in our difficulty celebrating, the way children do–without thinking too hard, the almost crazy (by human standards) possibilities survival beyond death: “Merry torches” and “upside-down park.”

    A cleverly subtle but effective poem about the beauty, richness and unexpected spiritual possibilities in nature,. Nice work, A. R. ! It holds up, even reveals more, upon rereading. Are you familiar with the poems of G. M. Hopkins from the last part of the 19th century. If you are, I think you must enjoy them. I do–a lot. Check out his poem “the Starlight Night.”

    Best wishes,

    P. S. Only one question : did you intend the distraction, or humorous addition in tone, or double sensory image– or maybe all three–caused by the word “prick”?


    • The feeling of being pin-pricked by the light of the star is a fortunate accident. That happens a lot with intuitive writing.

      Hopkins… love him. My favorite from the last century, though, is Walter de la Mare. Robert Frost a close second.

      Thanks for your critique of my poem. I really wasn’t sure whether a reader would find it successful overall.


    • Stars and Fish

      Through water iridescent
      fish whip;
      through darkness effervescent
      stars slip,
      both travelers incessant.

      Some never see the spreading sky;
      some go and go, but never by.

      Stone laid out in range on range
      that stared up at the newborn sky
      face down has ruined here to lie
      miles beneath the world gone strange.
      Earth, the universal grave,
      here lies entombed in wave on wave.

      But stars are too far
      to be sure that they are:
      did a pin prick the dark;
      or an archer that fled
      leave an arrow of gold;
      or a body since dead
      its irrational sprite?
      In the long-kindled height;
      might there hover a spark
      from a fire gone cold?

      Some fish seem to sleep;
      some light up the deep;
      where black is flowing,

      while astral hosts
      at their near-distant posts
      line up to mark
      and throng the roads
      of an upside-down park,
      each man with his glowing
      serene cigar

      while the ladies wave torches
      singing odes
      to the fish in the sea
      to their brothers and sisters
      dividing the ocean
      the maters and misters
      of chilly devotion –

      For a star is too far
      to be sure that it can’t
      to be sure that it ain’t
      a plant
      or a haint
      or a person like me
      but so quick she makes light,
      while I’m like a tree
      she walks past in the night.

      Einstein thinks light exists all at once
      and not bit by bit as we do,
      and Freud says the stories we tell are just fronts;
      really it’s all libido.
      Newer fellers have said newer things
      but nothing that young has grown wings.

      Oh, what’s there but hunger in my fantasy?
      Why else have the fish and the star met in me?

      That’s why I think
      every thousand years
      the troubled fate
      of an empire clears
      or at least a large town.

      A phosphorous fish,
      the ocean’s Armstrong,
      whilst drifting along
      is washed from its cave,
      its lightless home,
      cast up on a wave,
      first into foam,
      unbreathable lace,
      and thence into weightless space.

      He tries not to blink
      while a great light goes by –
      already too late:
      a star has sent down
      on him a wish,
      has wished on a fish
      in an upside down sky,
      that has never been dry
      the murky, the chilling,
      the merpower’s sky.

      Oh, his lady, his lady,
      his lady went by!
      without steps he goes down
      willing, unwilling
      to darker regions
      to chilly legions

      a doom is begotten;
      the fish has forgotten.

      It’s never all said
      when a fish is dead.

      A star can die
      but never go by.


Chime In!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s