Special Guides » The Poetry Issue

Orion’s belt

by

stars-pulsate_6d1ebc2ea3126639.jpg

my father taught me about the stars
three adjacent, that’s orion
bright and red and dripping, that’s Beetlejuice
not to be mistaken for mars
and that bright one there—is venus
he spread the universe with his parted hands—my father,
his crumpled star maps, his thick spectacles
the stars gleaming above us, knowing
my father spread out the universe—but he
never told me it was cold

my father taught me about sadness—how it nestles in our bones
like rampant weeds, sprouting indelicately beneath our ears
it whispers, pervasive and quiet and so very present
how did he know I’d grow up to have eyes that matched his?
how did he know that one day I’d stand in the middle of the street and think
“god, I can’t do this,
I can’t do this,
I can’t do this”
He taught me that star belts were meant for strangling sometimes,
Orion’s belt shining above me, choking, gleaming
and I cannot breathe under this vast emptiness,
these tangled greens, up my esophagus
god, sometimes the sky looks so empty
god, sometimes the sky looks so cold


my father taught me about love—
how it’s supposed to strike right above the ribcage and consume,
burn, ignite, destroy kissing the woman who was to be my
mother, underneath the San Diego skyline
she, a vision in a mustard raincoat
the one, the one, the one
he didn’t tell me that one day I’d wake up
and decide it was over, suddenly and swiftly
I’d tell my paramour that I hadn’t, didn’t, couldn’t
at the bus stop, god what is wrong with you?
the universe is vast and empty and cold
just like my hands as I touched his face, just like my hands
as I pressed them to the windows
I think he cried, but I didn’t care
Because my father taught me about love—
how it’s supposed to be, I assume
but not how it actually is

my father taught me about the stars—
there, that’s the big dipper, a shiny silver cup
meant for drinking,
his star maps and his spectacles, his smile wide,
his eyes sad
a thousand twinkling gas balls above us, the weight of it so very heavy
someday, later, I would understand how someone can feel
uncomfortable in their own skin, stretched and thin and not very there,
not very there, at all
an almost dark and bright
feeling
like how my hands are always cold, and I will never kiss a boy like a vision in a mustard raincoat
but right now: my father has his star maps, his thick spectacles
his sad eyes,
the one, the one, the one
and so I open my mouth, to speak, to ask—
and the whole universe falls in
and it isn’t even cold, not anymore, just empty,

sort of like me