Bok globules in NGC 281  In the ancient, fabled days,
they numbered all the stars
to bring forth constellations.
  They did yeoman’s work,
counting distant lights,
weaving them into myths.
  They found the North Star
the pole about which
the sky bowl revolves.
  They spied glowing giants,
radiant hunters, crabs, lions,
thrones, and one graceful swan.

  Everything is different now.
Our attention's shifted,
our stories shrunk and splintered.
  But there’s one new constellation,
made not of stars, but
of the darkness in between.
  Oh, the stars still matter.
They are shining grains of sand
kicked up by The Suffering Man.
  The only one, the every one,
who fights for all of us.
His name is Sisyphus.
  He pushes ever up
hill against the black hole
hiding at the galactic heart.
  He's the cosmic contestant
pushing against entropy,
keeping all that pulls, together.

  He will lose eventually,
his sinews fading into flatness.
Until then, though: what a story.
  The ancients gave us 88 constellations.
Modern darkness gives just one.
But if Sisyphus slips…flatness.
  So much as I enjoy the bear,
dragon, and carpenter’s square,
my favorite is The Suffering Man,
the modern constellation of darkness.

Copyright © 2006, Greg Beatty

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

Greg Beatty is recently married. He and his wife live in Bellingham Washington. Greg has a BA from University of Washington and a PhD from the University of Iowa, both in English, and attended Clarion West 2000. Greg's work has appeared in 3SF, Absolute Magnitude, Abyss & Apex, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Asimov's, Fortean Bureau, HP Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror, the Internet Review of Science Fiction, Ideomancer, Oceans of the Mind, Paradox, SCI FICTION, Shadowed Realms, Strange Horizons, Star*Line, and The New York Review of Science Fiction, among other venues. Greg won the Rhysling Award in 2005 (short poem category).