The sky is a map of questions: what burns,
how long, where is the middle without an edge?
You ask & my answers are never enough.
When you were small, we lived by milkthirst
& sleep, outside of time & the shifting blues,
unaware of any world beyond the two of us.
But now, you point upward & every question
bears another: how bright, how many, can we live
out there? I warm your hands with mine
& tell you how even stars can be cast out
or mistaken. In the Winter Triangle, the red giant
is Betelgeuse, a runaway in a stellar wake
of heat & wind, & soon to supernova.
Just above the pines is the evening star,
which is also the morning star, & not a star
at all, but a cloudy planet, double-seen,
so close to us. Imagine me in Ohio
and you on the ocean, a pole to the other
in half-dark, where the strongest light
is Venus, low in opposite skies.
Why is it not all one day you ask
& I cannot answer because all I want
is more of your days. If each life is a single
spoken sentence, then I know how yours
begins, but will never hear it whole.
All the time & we do not have time. I draw
a circle split in two. The empty curve is half
a turn, a door, or a burial mound, the way
my body without me is an outline of moss.
I could tell you how distant light from stars
still finds us long after they burn out,
or that bones are made of their dying dust
but that is no consolation. We are experts
at division. You want to know how far,
where we go, & what happens after.
To locate ourselves is to measure separation
from another. We are in the same field
but forty years apart, a thousand feet
above the sea, & five hundred miles
from the graves of my grandparents.
Listen, my love, the universe cannot
be fathomed, not with circles of stone,
an abacus, or even a telescope. If infinity
is edgeless, then the center becomes wherever
we are. You are my fixed point as we spin
on an axis, turn in orbits inside of orbits,
& speed outwards. Instead of a sentence,
may our lives be endless questions. On Venus,
each day is longer than a year, & if we keep
walking toward the sun, it will never be night.
For more information about this piece, see this issue's legend.
Robin Beth Schaer is the author of the poetry collection Shipbreaking (Anhinga 2015). Her writing has appeared in Tin House, Paris Review, and Guernica, among others. Her recent awards include fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell, and the Vermont Studio Center. She has taught writing in New York and Ohio.
In the Atlantic, 150 miles off the coast of North Carolina, are the last known coordinates of the Tall Ship Bounty before it sank in Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The ship had been my home for two summers when I sought distance from a lost job and a dissolved marriage by working as a deckhand. What I found was dangerous work, stunning seas, and a tightknit crew who offered an unexpected lesson in trust and love and risking my heart. When Bounty sank, I was newly pregnant, and so my child and the ship became inexorably linked in this fragile territory of love.