Cassiopeia
In the late dark fading
slowly into velvet at the forehead
of dawn, you pulled me from sleep
to tiptoe the steep wooden stairs
and slip out the back door. 
Those nights, my hand small, yours
warm, you taught me
to trace the gentle dip
of Ursa Major, Orionís strong belt,
and the constellation of home,
Cassiopeia.

Midnight belonged to you, and in love
for the first time, young, I claimed it too.
Hours wrestled with my world under the stars.
I came back always to you.
Sitting in the orange kitchen,
How do you know if you love someone?
You peeled tangerines, fed me slice
by slice, and told me of your first love
who introduced you to Dvorak.
					
You were, in early autumn, 
a great red sweatshirt to cover us both.
You gave me Rome, Paris, Venice, Peoria.
I pulled you from your maps
into the mountains.  Letís just get lost.

I have learned my life through your love.
I want to tell you.  In the next room, 
lit blue by the empty tv screen, 
my sister is crying.  
I can hear her: Please come home.
Weíre frightened.

I turn away, swallow against heartbreak
three hundred miles to school.  I donít know
whatís wrong with him.  Heís not
who he was.  Weíve lost our father.

It is never the same after that. 
I trace the constellation of home
for myself, alone on a windy hill.
Your hand, no longer warm, no
longer knowing, takes mine in memory.


16 October 2000

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