The Long Now
–Robin Beth Schaer
The sky is a map of questions: what burns,
how long, where is the middle without an edge?
You ask & my answers are never enough.
When you were small, we lived by milkthirst
& sleep, outside of time & the shifting blues,
unaware of any world beyond the two of us.
But now, you point upward & every question
bears another: how bright, how many, can we live
out there? I warm your hands with mine
& tell you how even stars can be cast out
or mistaken. In the Winter Triangle, the red giant
is Betelgeuse, a runaway in a stellar wake
of heat & wind, & soon to supernova.
Just above the pines is the evening star,
which is also the morning star, & not a star
at all, but a cloudy planet, double-seen,
so close to us. Imagine me in Ohio
and you on the ocean, a pole to the other
in half-dark, where the strongest light
is Venus, low in opposite skies.
Why is it not all one day you ask
& I cannot answer because all I want
is more of your days. If each life is a single
spoken sentence, then I know how yours
begins, but will never hear it whole.
All the time & we do not have time. I draw
a circle split in two. The empty curve is half
a turn, a door, or a burial mound, the way
my body without me is an outline of moss.
I could tell you how distant light from stars
still finds us long after they burn out,
or that bones are made of their dying dust
but that is no consolation. We are experts
at division. You want to know how far,
where we go, & what happens after.
To locate ourselves is to measure separation
from another. We are in the same field
but forty years apart, a thousand feet
above the sea, & five hundred miles
from the graves of my grandparents.
Listen, my love, the universe cannot
be fathomed, not with circles of stone,
an abacus, or even a telescope. If infinity
is edgeless, then the center becomes wherever
we are. You are my fixed point as we spin
on an axis, turn in orbits inside of orbits,
& speed outwards. Instead of a sentence,
may our lives be endless questions. On Venus,
each day is longer than a year, & if we keep
walking toward the sun, it will never be night.