Going abruptly into a starry night It is ignorance we blink from, dark, unhoused; There is a gaze of animal delight Before the human vision. Then, aroused To nebulous danger, we may look for easy stars, Orion and the Dipper; but they are not ours, These learned fields. Dark and ignorant, Unable to see here what our forebears saw, We keep some fear of random firmament Vestigial in us. And we think, Ah, If I had lived then, when these stories were made up, I Could have found more likely pictures in haphazard sky. But this is not so. Indeed, we have proved fools When it comes to myths and images. A few Old bestiaries, pantheons and tools Translated to the heavens years ago— Scales and hunter, goat and horologe—are all That save us when, time and again, our systems fall. And what would we do, given a fresh sky And our dearth of image? Our fears, our few beliefs Do not have shapes. They are like that astral way We have called milky, vague stars and star-reefs That were shapeless even to the fecund eye of myth— Surely these are no forms to start a zodiac with. To keep the sky free of luxurious shapes Is an occupation for most of us, the mind Free of luxurious thoughts. If we choose to escape, What venial constellations will unwind Around a point of light, and then cannot be found Another night or by another man or from other ground. As for me, I would find faces there, Or perhaps one face I have long taken for guide; Far-fetched, maybe, like Cygnus, but as fair, And a constellation anyone could read Once it was pointed out; an enlightenment of night, The way the pronoun you will turn dark verses bright.
Reprinted from Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems by William Meredith, published by Triquarterly Books/Northwestern University Press in 1997. Copyright (c) 1997 by William Meredith. All rights reserved; used by permission of Northwestern University Press and the author.
William Meredith was born in New York City on January 9, 1919.
Date Published: 1997-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/starlight