Tag Archives: sky

The Three Sisters

The sisters were bored. Mintaka, Alnilam and Alnitak had grown weary of their life in the sky, caught in the luminous circle of Orion’s belt: an existence of being mere accessories to an ancient, hunting constellation.

And to make matters worse, every October they observed, like envious astronomers, the descent of the Orionid meteor shower. They watched the bright veil bound for parts unknown: the blue and green planet that patiently awaited the radiant visitation.

Repeatedly they begged the night sky’s very patient empress – for the moon was surrounded by stars of varying ages, and had grown used to their supplications – if they might not just once be included in the festivities, just to see what the flamboyant illumination was all about. Surely Orion could look after his silly buckle and sword by himself.

Though the meteor shower never seemed to return, and despite the moon’s tedious explanations of atmospheres and ozones and burning dust, making the sisters wild with impatience – Alnitak actually swelled into a supergiant in her annoyance, threatening her figure – their opportuning continued.

Finally, weary of their tiny voices bouncing off latitudes and longitudes, traveling through endless light-years, the moon gave in.

On their given day of release, the sisters began their journey downward. They noticed the change in the air – its shape and texture: becoming thinner, harsher. Instead of the soft unchanging shadows at the top of the sky, they saw rushing by them a prism of colors: cobalt, turquoise, lavender, emerald, tangerine, bronze, cherry, ivory. They thrilled at the swift-moving kaleidoscope.

But this wasn’t the only change that the stars noticed. The moon, ever considerate of her wayward children, made sure that the stars’ arrival would be no cause for alarm. The stars would not crash into the earth with an undignified thump, to be left wallowing in the depths of their personal craters. And as they were promised a jaunt amongst humanity, they were given the shapes of women. And since they were the daughters of the lunar queen, they were given royal status: the three sisters became princesses. Finally, feeling creative and compassionate, the moon also made them impossibly beautiful. Their flesh became as fragrant as tinted power, their cheeks, fingertips and elbows were touched with rouge, their lips were as soft as honey. Their substance was made from the delicate wreckage of a ladies boudoir.

They journeyed through histories and centuries. Their gowns and veils swirled about their bodies and faces like galaxies. This irony was not lost on them and they made a note to thank their clever mother for her wit as soon as they returned. Mintaka, at least, the most distant and introverted of the sisters, intended on keeping this promise.

They had a lovely time. The irresponsibility, the freedom from the astrological maps embedded in the charcoal-colored firmament…the earth was such a lovely place. But then they discovered something else.

It made a rushing, cold sound that vibrated beneath their feet. There was a sense of movement, of hidden life – of a foreign world made of silver, salt and scales: if they knew what those things were.

Beyond curious, they once again asked to be shown one more new world. Beyond annoyed, the moon listened…but to the sisters’ surprise she quickly agreed upon realizing the nature of their request. So a basket was fashioned for the girls to delicately step into – and they were softly lowered from the green bluffs onto the gentle, sighing ocean.

sisters2

And they enjoyed themselves mightily. The pale horizon, the glitter of shark’s teeth and fishes’ breath beneath the water, the kelp forests, the tireless birds, the grottos made of pearls and coral. They could have floated aimlessly forever.

They did not realize that the moon had a plan. For she was ruler of the oceanic rhythms: every time she had a whim to do so, she would cast a silken line rigged with invisible hooks and pull the tides towards her. And on the evening when Orion’s complaints got to be too much- something about a lack of embellishments – the moon, as well as catching the tide, made sure that she secured the sisters’ floating basket as well.

As a result, on that night the tide was unusually high…and stargazers were amazed to see a trio of stars actually ascending, until they returned to their homes, becoming the stationary jewels decorating Orion’s belt once more.

On Holiday

“Let us speak of the revels which are accustomed to be made on St. John’s Eve…”

– the monk of Winchcomb, 13th century

During the summer, the sky swerves and tilts on a new axis. It slides on its equinox like a child sliding down a stairway banister. Summer Solstice, bronzed as any sunbather, lingers high overhead, lingering in Cancer’s Tropic. The shadows of St. John’s Eve leach into the stones of Stonehenge and then are cast across the grasslands of Wiltshire. The stories and thoughts of the prehistoric builders are revealed – but no one has yet been able to read them.

At twilight, the whimsical sky is crowded with revelers. Constellations, long absent from the carnival stage, begin to arrive. A menagerie of holiday visitors – eagles (Aquila), swans (Cygnus), foxes (Vulpecula), horses with starry wingspans (Pegasus) dance an orbit to an astral harp (Lyra). The trace work of their steps pierces the indigo fabric in a metallic frost.

The astrological wheel turns along the summer ecliptics and celestial equators. When it stops, Sagittarius the centaur is rearing against the sky, pocked with nebulae and stars, shouldering his quiver of arrows. Scorpius, bright with novas and poison, waits. Libra, outlined with a distant harvest of blue, orange and red stars, prepares to carry its scales of justice and good behavior during the liveliest of seasons.

Sunsets are very gala. They are the color of sweet cocktails – honey and Benedictine, sangria with plums and nectarines, champagne and peach. They are warm and melting – coating the horizon with an invitation to an evening of celebrations.

During the carnival evenings, planets are eager to crowd into the sky. If the moon is curved into a crescent, they hang from her geometric grace like jewels. If the moon is full, wearing her summer colors – Strawberry, Rose or Red – she casts a cherry-colored cloak across her new neighbors. Mars and Saturn ride lowest on the horizon, drinking in the last of the sunset’s sugared alchemy. But Jupiter is bold and bright, sailing like a radiant ship towards the moon’s blushing presence.

When summer’s hot allure is exhausted, the sky revolves once more to reveal unfamiliar populations and landscapes that bend over a ripe solstice, a golden equinox heavy with crops. Constellations float in the thin, cold air: dolphins (Delphinus), fish (Pisces), whales (Cetus) swim in oceans kept full by the Aquarian water bearer. The full moon dons her working garb: Harvest, Hunter’s.

Breezes as chilly as lace curl like a fichu across the diamante bosom of the modest sky. They kick up gusts of meteors and shooting stars: the Orionids, the Taurids, The Leonids – even the final sweep of the Perseid meteor shower.

Stars that did not take these giddy rides are left behind, glittering and lonely in the cinnamon sky. They are scattered like the ribbons and furbelows of the departed revelers’ indulgences. They were the madcap reminders that tickled the crooked backs of the workers in the fields, the residues of warmth that whispered of the pleasures they had missed.

Weather Vane

The dolphin curved and bounded with great joy within the confines of its blue home – a generous playground.  It billowed like a ship through the maritime air with a prow that rode the winds with a smiling, salty grace.  It mocked and teased the still, morning air which expanded into a pelagic horizon cursive with waves:  rolling and breaking at its bidding.

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Air currents rubbed against the dolphin’s metallic skin with the insistency of the purring sea.  Sparrows and mockingbirds turned into seagulls; the stoic houses beneath it whales; and the lawns became ocean floors, littered with shells and jewels.  A tiny corner of my neighborhood transformed by the presence of a spinning statuette held high above a singular roof, a winsome silhouette held in the grip of the weather’s caprice.

The happy, airborne creature had paused in its gambols over the four winds:  their full cheeks and blowing curls building a cherubic compass.  It breached over a quadrant of arrows that pointed towards the vast corners of an earthly mansion, defining the map that sailed across the sky.  It laughed at the free-wheeling cartography that floated like stars, wrapping it in constellations and the trails of planets – the latitudes and longitudes of its joyful home.

Theda Bara

The twilight came

Shuttering like an eyelid

Cobalt and kohl stained

Theda Bara stretched across the sky

 

Her golden cobras

Spat and curled into the sunset

Her venomous hair crawling

Her dark vanity and vampire perfume

 

Sparking through her curls

Stars pierced her dangerous skin

Blood dripping towards the sun

And bubbling like a witches’ brew

 

Then the moon came

To scold her wayward minions

For making her rise

To defend a fellow goddess in pain

theda

 

The Spinning Column

I had never noticed it before:  nature’s attempt at architecture, her silken hands spinning a column of flowers that grew in a tinted cloud.

Window Dressing

A tower that mocked gravity’s dour classroom, it broke rules, growing effervescent and high.  It took root in the cement, leaning into the building like a frail buttress sustaining a cathedral with nothing more than a cacophony of petals.

It climbs like a child, with exploratory, reaching fingers.  It crawls over wall and towards window, its pastel fragrance waiting outside to be announced – an invisible, scented calling card. 

Frontyard Forest

Its filigreed limbs reached across the roof – curling towards the sky, waiting for the bronzed droplets of light to fall.  Strengthened by the bright nutrition, they will be encouraged to grow for the duration of the summer.  The green cradle will continue to embrace the house in its complex grip.

Yet when Autumn comes – riding an equinox across the sky’s astrological arch – the sun will begin to recede.  It will bequeath its precious time to the moon, who has waited like a jealous mistress behind the twilight.  With daylight’s retreat, the flowering plants suffer in their sad gardens.   Their heads droop as they weep away their colors in a seasonal grief.

What of the taunting tower then?  It will weaken and crumble – petals will shrivel and fall like discarded, sepia messages; leaves will twist in their atrophy.   And then the owner of the house will come out one afternoon to tear down the brave efforts of the growing time, initiating a dying harvest.

Yet for all its muscular gaiety, for all its blossoming power, I had never noticed the spinning column before.  Now, each evening I make sure I stop to admire its exquisite recklessness.  And in the winter I will stop to remember the testament of the once-warm communication between earth and sun; a bridge that dared to grow into the welcoming sky.

Waiting

They were waiting.  Their shapes were wilting; the fine edges becoming dim and unfocused, like aged eyes.  Their chlorophyll was running thin through a green cartography that was drying into faded rivers.  The palm print of Summer pressed with an alchemist's anticipation – but the leaves, the waiting leaves, fought the heated transformation.

The triumph of Spring was over.  Their birth had finished, when they had emerged in verdant curls from stems thick with the muscular promise of a growing season.  Their green scent had been dainty and cool; Persephone's fragrance heralding her return from black obscurity.

But now the sun had run rampant across the sky; his heat turning the blue eternity into a blank wilderness.  The leaves curdled during the fierce day; their fatigue betraying their internal botany.

So they were waiting.

They were waiting for the season of harvests; for the smell of horses waiting in the yellow fields, shivering under a rising equinox:  they were waiting for the sunsets to burst in their veins, so they could fall once more into the darkness.

 

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Asleep And Awake

I don't talk about my dreams very often; to do so would be like taking pictures of your children and showing them to a dubious audience.  So allow me to take out my wallet:

The night before last I dreamt I was in a small house – square, poor, undecorated.  It was located in the desert.  There were others with me and we were waiting for a tidal wave to sweep us from the dusty floor.  The thought of the great hand of the ocean rising above us in the middle of such a dry place didn't strike me as odd.

I peered outside.  There was no wave.  But there was the sky.  It was a sleepy blue, the type of melted watercolor that Parrish used as a backdrop for his maidens and Dulac used as a carpet for his queens to trod upon. 

 

It was as if liquid turquoise and lapis lazuli had poured down the face of the daytime sky, cooling it beneath its delicate, exquisite gradations.

Then I saw the wave:  a pale curl of water on the brow of the horizon.  So I closed the door and continued to wait.  In time the water slowing begain to pour into the house.  And then I woke up.  For some time I remembered that terrible wait and the semi-precious sky.

Much later, during my walk home from work, I thought of my dream again.  Now if I leave at 6PM, or even a little earlier, I stand a chance of seeing the light being subdued by the powerful twilight.  The memory of that confrontation lives on in colors that are rich and exotic.  The battlefield above me was strewn with banners of ruby, bronze, chilly cobalt, nectarine and ice.

I saw those colors in the sky.  I saw a string of brown clouds running like dirty children being called home.  And I had seen that sky before – during the night, with my eyes closed, the harvest of blue growing beyond nerves, bone and blood.  Asleep and awake I was held in its dusky embrace, awash in the blue glacier rain.

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