O My Sisters
For Arab seers in the desert night,
watching the arc of the heavens
wheel around that northern star.
Night after night they tracked the
motion of the stars, and called the brightest
Altair and Vega, Deneb and Al-debaran
its burning red above the sand.
If I went searching for my own twin
I would never have to look so faraway as I see now
seeing light that started here so many years ago.
For Robert Burnham in his tower on Lowell Mountain
For Timothy Ferris and a wheeling photo of Andromeda,
place of a trillion stars,
whose light is alabaster and beauty,
and so many worlds you could count away your life.
One man thinks our sun was born
among a thousand growing stars,
and over years—as each one orbited the black hole
centre of the galaxy—those suns dispersed,
the gravity-tossed children of the Milky Way.
Some, lighter, drifted out into the arm of Orion,
others wandered up into the empty quarter
above the galactic plane. And there were those
most massive and blue-white
and for seconds outshone everything,
and they were cinders and gone
and they were lost to each other.
O my sisters
when only one star’s burning in this empty place
and language ends and here is dark,
and everywhere is far
When the days grow short, we worry needlessly
and the kindness of strangers destroys us
when love has not found us
when we are driving without map or destination
when we stop being beautiful even to ourselves
O my sisters
this song for you
that in your darkness you may hear
that in your solitude grows heat
O my sisters.
Ian and Louise perform this at