Missing the Perseids (for three years running)

It’s Perseids Week, and Slate has a guide on how to watch the meteor shower: essentially ‘on your back, after midnight’ today seems to be the consensus. Two years ago, I stayed with my lovely friend Natasha Frost and saw the meteors from a French farmhouse, and ended up writing this poem, which came out in The Emmores a few months later. If you’re stargazing tonight, then don’t read this, go outside! But if you happen to be indoors, this might give the general idea.

 

Missing The Perseids

for Natasha

Five of us supine on the patio,
waiting, frustrated, for a cloud to clear –
keeping our expectations low
like fans at a belated come-back show.
For twenty minutes, nothing seems to come.

Then, glancing off Maria’s eye,
a sketchy autograph in fading steam;
a spark of self-destructive reassurance,
burnt to a crisp as soon as seen, but there
enough to hold our restless bodies flat

in stationary pursuit. Follow that.
Once, whale-watching off from Chéticamp,
a boat of strangers waited for an hour
and shivered for a second’s flash of fin,
then jammed frostbitten buttons as it sank

through our viewfinders, knew that it was lost:
experience evading shutter-speed.
And here, outside a house outside Uzès,
an orchard at our feet and overhead,
untended, each dropped pin

a hundred thousand orchards up in flames.
We all agreed we hadn’t really seen the stars
in years; had let them fade to something tired, tame.
(Too long a journey, from too far away
to find the town shut-up, your host blasé)

Scouring the stratosphere for pizzazz,
its background of explosions left on mute,
I knew I hadn’t texted you all day.
No, we are not always glittering display,
nor do we give the static stars their due.
Familiar, they ought to floor us, too.

 

 

 

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