Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

In Our Stars

It’s National Poetry Day! (I mean, not in the nation I live in, but when it comes to poetry, I’m not picky.) The theme is stars, so here’s a poem with stars in it, previously published only in a small zine called Dark Illuminati, about ten years ago.

 

Holly Grove
             
She told me it was the oldest grove
of holly trees in the world, or
maybe just the country, I forget
which. "It's two days after midsummer,"
she said, "But close enough for a celebration."

All the mythic elements were there -- history
in the fiber of ancient live trees (like that poor girl
who ran from Apollo and, transformed into a laurel,
had to stand still forever just to get away), the stars
pinwheeling slowly through their elaborate
ballroom-dance courses, nude-girl naiads
splashing in the shallow water, and somewhere
a snorting bull roaming the darkness,
deep-chested and archetypal.

There aren't a lot of happily-ever-afters
in those old stories; the gods of the
Mediterranean were too human for those,
too firmly planted in the middle of the world,
for all their Olympian posturing. Love
affairs often ended with people turned
into trees or flowers or lonesome sounds.

(Orpheus was lucky. His lover died before
she could abandon him in a more prosaic
fashion)

(No, that's ridiculously bitter. He wasn't
lucky. He was smashed apart by grief
and furies)

I watched my ex-lover swim
in the moonlight, Psyche to my Cupid,
Helen to my -- well, say Faust. I thought
about all the things those long-ago
folk had to endure just to become
constellations. 

Let her go, then. I don't want her 
to transform herself to escape me,
to be a tree in my backyard. I don't
want her if I have to make bargains
with the lords of the underworld,
or even the dark things in my private
caverns. Let us both live on in the middle
of this earth, and the middle of our own
stories. You don't always have to fall
apart over love
                         falling
                                     apart.

I sat on a log by the fire and looked
at the flames and the pale shapes
of the other girls nymphing away in
the two-days-after-midsummer dark,
watching night fall on one mythic time,
but aware always of later chances
to become part of a beautiful
future constellation.

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