For Sherri Smith and Donna Dewhurst Nordstrom

Inverted image of NGC 6397When word reaches me
I walk outside
and stare hard at the night sky
the blackbirds have taken
the late spring snow as confusion
the Great Salt Lake
shimmers in its white emptiness
and the stars seem to challenge
that hamstrung sense of grief
her absence in the vacuum
that surrounds us.

In the cul de sac
the pastel homes are blind
and monotone, your son’s
fifth birthday comes
and goes while you smoke a cigarette
sucking oxygen from a tube
outside the hospital doors.

There’s much we do not know
what happens beyond the event horizon
where gravity becomes so strong
the world so small
but when she disappeared
you let the sky go truly black
as in the aftermath of a catastrophe
sucking up everything we might
have called light into an orbit
we could not escape.

Your cells went wild
in some kind of strange sympathy
as she drove off sleepily, silently
into the warp of the Snake
at Hell’s Canyon.

I sat with your son
and we wished the birds away
watched them scatter across
the snow fields like inverse stars
on a polar shield, the first fledgling
greens smothered in the sky’s late fury
and unfolded the night’s texture
its just visible pinpricks
in our concurrent imagination
hungry beyond belief for the next sign
of some planetary fraternity.

Copyright © 2009, George Moore

Image Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

George Moore’s poetry has appeared in The Atlantic, Poetry, North American Review, Colorado Review, Orion, Meridian, Chelsea, Nimrod, and elsewhere.  He was a finalist for the Richard Snyder Memorial Prize from Ashland Poetry Press in 2007, and earlier for The National Poetry Series, The Brittingham Poetry Award, and The Anhinga Poetry Prize.  His most recent poetry collections are Headhunting (Edwin Mellen, 2002), a travelogue of ancient rituals about love and possession, and All Night Card Game in the Back Room of Time (Pulpbits.com, 2006), an eBook on Quantum Relativity as metaphor for life's paradoxes.  He teaches at the University of Colorado, Boulder.