an astronomical diagram
The sky is a bouquet of old news.
Its gap-toothed vendor was Italian;
his roses unfurl galaxies.
From red to gold to blue,
From Barnard's Star to Rigel,
I plot the curve of magnitude.
Memory's a planetarium.
A twilit rustle, a sequin, an eye–
I squint to see a spectral class
of foxes cluster near the hedgerow.
Which luminosity is true?
That which is apparent
If history is a map of courage,
then the heart is made of helium.
This is a parallax to love:
You and I tilting sideways
with the surf, ordering
a string of stars inside the axis
of the plundered trees.
* * *
Poem originally published in LVNG. Reprinted with the permission of the author. All Rights Reserved.
I chose entry Carol Light's manuscript from a number of strong candidates for the Winner Prize because the poet writes out of the belief that Theodore Roethke taught his students, who included James Wright, Richard Hugo, Carolyn Kizer, and myself, that sound, rhythm, and meaning are of nearly equal importance in a poem. The voice in these poems is always authentic and appropriate for the meaning and the emotion behind it, always dependable, and these are qualities rarely this consistent ten times in a row. A number of the other entrants were often more ambitious in their themes, angrier or more impassioned generally, more daring or more determined to be experimental or novel in their diction and syntax, but none were more convincing. The rhythms may be more formal than is customary these days, but the poet is always using that formal cadence instead of allowing it to over-control the rhythms of common speech. All of us should hope to hear more from this poet in the years to come.