“What the Astrologer Failed to See in Our Stars” by Dick Westheimer

A Lonesome Border by Carmella Dolmer, marker drawing of two shadowy figures looking down into a dark hole

Image: “A Lonesome Border” by Carmella Dolmer. “What the Astrologer Failed to See in Our Stars” was written by Dick Westheimer for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, May 2023, and selected as an Editor’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)


Dick Westheimer


The astrologer told us not to marry.
She said we would burn
one another in an astrological
furnace. She traced her finger
over the spider’s web chart
she’d drawn, showing one of our
rising signs made of dry tinder,
and mine, that of a match. Our choice
would be to burn or alternately fall
into a hole so deep that the only way
out would be fire. Of course, not even
this promise of planets in catastrophe
could dissuade us heated lovers
from each other’s flesh. We had this
fantasy of one day becoming gray-haired,
shade-tree sitting folk.
But what is a zodiac sign
other than a random pattern of stars?
And what is a horoscope other than
a dowser with no water to find?
And a star? It is the pressing
of the smallest parts of us
until there is fusion, heat where
once was none—and the stuff
of more stars, or maybe, like us,
now a quiet binary, living
out our graying days illuminated,
mostly, in each other’s orbit.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
May 2023, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “The best ekphrastic poems leap into something new without losing touch with the original image, so that it’s often not immediately clear whether the poem or visual art was created first. Like a binary star, they appear as one. Dick Westheimer manages that with a poignant extended metaphor that doubles over itself several times. On its own, the poem is full of memorable lines, but the addition of the drawing makes for a brilliant singular object.”

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