What We Saw from the Melton Memorial Observatory

Through the telescope’s fat eyepiece,
entire galaxies were within our reach 

— a billion stars that dwarfed our own sun, 
the passing brilliance of unnamed comets, 
dust and mantle of countless planets, a horizon
of space and time folding into each other —

as if we could simply extend our arms
to wave our hands across the celestial canvas,
change the fate of universes.

There, in the middle of it all, 

the quasars and WIMPs and charts and nebulae and graphs and novae and satellites and centaurs,

a black hole the size of our lives consumed

everything in sight 

                                                           — dragged everything in and drowned it in a nothingness 

            not a fleck of light could escape.

(cinderblock walls painted beige with brown rubber floorboards and brown metal doors and pale tile floors and paneled ceilings, the smell of paper and mop water and industrial carpet and concrete, the clicking — of what? — echoing through halls and the constant wheeze of stale air squeezed through small vents) 

Through mirror and lens distance collapsed and we felt the gravity of an emptiness light 

years away take hold of us. 

There was nothing to do but watch it grow and calculate when 

we would slip in and wait and hope

what we hoped was in there was true.

So we sat and felt time sink

                                                                                                              from day to day into days 

as seasons passed as days,

fall and spring and fall and spring,

our eyes cracking with crow’s feet from squinting at photos 

of ourselves,

   until none of us remembered what we came to see.

We were promised the extraordinary.

          Our names would fill the maps 

                                                  of unknowable dimensions. We would own 

                                           entire systems. It was impossible not to believe,

      even while each of us heard the other  

mumble “When? How?” and 

“When?”

with every sentence.

(this is where we eat cold, soggy sandwiches for lunch, where we sneak naps when no one is looking, where we steal glances at the curves of one another and consider masturbating in bathroom stalls because our lovers’ faces are crooked memories as abstract as the constellations)

We were inside so long that the air outside tasted strange. 

We coughed it out of our lungs with curses.    

There, at that moment, the starlight pricked the skin of our bare arms,

      sending a pulse of warmth through our bodies, and we recognized this happening 

to each of us without speaking as we headed to the garage.

 Then someone said, “Look at the way the moon shines through the branches of the trees 

           casting a tangle of shadows over the lines in the brick path.”

We looked, and we saw it.

Someone else said, 

“That’s it.  I am never going back again.”

    The warmth from the stars and the moon rose within us and we smiled

even though we knew we would return tomorrow,

and for every tomorrow we could imagine until 

our smiles become shadows of themselves 

caught in a vacuous silence.

(we walk on through the night, too tired to wonder about the dawn

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