November 27, 2012

Stephen Burdette

WALTER SCOTT HOUSTON (1912–1993)

I’m thinking about someone I knew but never met.
He would write about the stars, as pure magic and not as a scientist
And he would feed my boy’s imagination
Of the nighttime sky and the future that lay just ahead,
If only I could hold on and trust just a little longer.

To him, the stars were seashells scattered by the tide.
And each one, if held close to the ear,
Would whisper the secrets of the universe
To a lonely, abandoned child whose own universe
Betrayed secrets best kept unshared.

To Walter, the galaxy was a flattened community of shining seashells,
Of every color, and size, and age,
All agreeing to spin as one, their light illuminating
A common stage, whose ambition was to forever banish
The dark and cold of space.

And hovering around this spinning wheel of light,
Hung globular cluster chandeliers, born
When the galaxy was new, and round, and mostly darkened dust.
Each now glowing as fading and aging lights,
Telltale holy lights,

They announced the birth of a galactic sphere
From the dark womb of the Universe.
A new galaxy, with the passage of time,
Flattened out, now bright and spinning
And all spread out.

Like the burning trash cans on New York’s Lower West Side,
It meant hope for warmth and light.
Even for the burned out remnant stars from long ago.
All the scattered stars, the dim, the old,
As well as the big and small, the young, the bright,

All were enhanced through Walter’s insight.
The bright, frolicking with those of far less light.
Even those flung away by mistake, as was I.
They all joined the globular clusters of long ago,
Forming a stunning, galactic halo.

He used a pen to draw out a young imagination
Clouded in doubt, that my world held anything more for me,
Than pain, loneliness and suffering. And warning
Not to trade the warmth of his written worlds of light,
For the endless cold of the streets at night.

from Rattle #21, Summer 2004