To Capella, the Goat Star
Tonight before I lower my bedroom shades,
I have to tell you there’s just no way
I see what astronomers see: a nanny
hanging on the shoulder of a reckless guy
driving a chariot in the western sky
with two kids in the front seat.
Nor can I wrap my mind around your stats:
Twelve times bigger than the Sun.
Surface heat: 4940° Kelvin.
Sixth brightest naked-eye star.
Forty light years away.
I’m more inclined to side with Breton
who calls you “The Shepherd’s Star.”
1887. Oil on canvas. 40½ by 31.
I love how you’re poised behind
a peasant woman plowing through dusk –
young, barefoot, strong – balancing
an unwieldy sack – potatoes, scholars say –
on the head above her straight-on eyes,
full lips, and determined stride.
Her rustic dress free from dirt and sweat.
Idyllic and romanticized, they say.
Noble in her timelessness.
And there you are: an unassuming light
above impressions of a bare landscape.
The same dazzle I see tonight.
I would like to walk with Breton’s girl
and ask about the small scythe in her belt.
I would like to know who’s at home
to relieve the weight of work.
Who will rub her feet? Who will offer
a cut of bread, a cup of wine?
Does she appreciate your twinkling steadiness?
Has she wondered, like I do, if you guided
shepherds and kings? If we chatted long enough,
we might agree a practiced fiction becomes belief.
But wait … the streetlights have hummed on
and the almost-human cries of cats in heat
distract. Since – according to serious gazers
of stars – you never set, hold your answers
for tomorrow night. Shepherd or goat?
Guided or guide? Myth or metaphor?
From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin is a lover of gardening and snorkeling, feral cats and backyard birds, writing and photography. Her fourth poetry collection, A Penchant for Masquerades, was released by Unsolicited Press in 2019. She is currently the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation. Find out more about Carolyn at www.carolynmartinpoet.com.
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