by Ruth Foley
I’ve never had much luck with constellations.
I can always find Orion in winter,
but not Scorpio who chases him out of the sky
in summer. I could never follow the illustrations
in my schoolbooks where a W of stars became
Cassiopeia on her chair, brushing her hair
and staring into an ornate silver hand mirror.
Three stars to make a throne?
Tonight, I’m making pictures of my own.
Look there—a woman throwing utensils
in the sink and slamming pots against
their lids. Meanwhile, to the right,
you can clearly see her husband. He is hiding
in the office, pretending to file bills
or some other important paperwork.
It is a famous myth—
after the argument, she went outside,
stood watching the stars, leaving
the door wide open but letting the screen slap shut.
She watched the vapor of her breath rising
toward some stars she could not name.
Soon enough, her husband came to wrap her
in his jacket, to hold her from behind,
to show her constellations.
Look there now—those three stars are her breath,
that one his finger, pointing.
Ruth Foley is the Associate Poetry Editor of Cider Press Review.
Her poems have appeared most recently in River Styx, Umbrella,
and the anthologies Sinatra: But Buddy, I’m a Kind of Poem and
Letters to the World. Foley lives in Massachusetts and teaches
English at Wheaton College.
I find love poems the most difficult to write—I’m not as
interested in wrenching emotion or shouting from the rooftops
as I am in the quiet moments where love exists most of the
time. I’m also a literalist in many ways, which can seem a little
strange for a poet. I find the stories behind the constellations
fascinating, but can’t imagine anyone looking up at the night
sky and actually seeing pictures there, at least not the ones
that are presented in books. My mind doesn’t work that way,
and those fussy schoolbook illustrations, with their ridiculous
level of detail, never helped. I suppose this poem is my way of
moving from the literal to the figurative, from the small
caretaking gesture of putting a jacket around a woman’s
shoulders to the grand gesture of writing your love in the stars.
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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary
Volume 4, Number 1
Copyright © 2009
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to material
published in the Apple
Valley Review are retained
by the individual authors