Books for Poets | Mailing List | Copyrights | About Us



August 2011

This prompt was inspired by August's Perseids meteor showers. The Perseids is a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle. The Perseids are so-called because the point they appear to come from a point, called the radiant, that lies in the constellation Perseus.

Perseus was the first of the mythic heroes of Greek mythology whose exploits in defeating various archaic monsters provided the founding myths of the Twelve Olympians. Perseus killed the Gorgon Medusa, and claimed Andromeda, having rescued her from a sea monster sent by Poseidon in retribution for Queen Cassiopeia declaring herself more beautiful than the sea nymphs.

Many of those mythological characters are now found in the constellations of the night sky.

I was thinking about the stars this month when I read that Philip Levine was named the newest U.S. Poet Laureate. One of his poems I know is "Starlight" and I went back to it.

In articles about Levine, he always seems to be described as blue-collar, working class, poet of the people, poet of work and similar terms. He definitely has those poems in his collection and they are important and powerful. But, it might give you the idea that all his poems are about that world.

"Starlight" is a father-son poem that I like. You can watch a video of Levine reading that poem online. He gives it the briefest of introductions - only to say that his father did not live long after the setting of the poem.

For this month's prompt, we asked people to write a poem that uses the stars as a way to help tell your story. From the mythology of the constellations, the science of the stars, the romance and history connected to the night sky or this months shooting stars from Perseus - you have many places to find your stars.

For more on this prompt and others, visit the Poets Online blog.


The sun is going down already. It’s very
late afternoon. Approximately
two stars and a moon are already
up. My training wheels lie in the grass
like legs. My father stands over them,
steadying the bicycle with one hand
while with the other he beckons
with a grimy finger. A Philips head
sticks in the earth beside the severed
pair. The whole scene looks like an amputation.
I will never walk again, if I can help it,
as soon as I learn how to fly. Flying
will be a little like dying, and a little
like being born. I mount the bike
which wobbles slightly in my father’s grip
the way the earth wobbles in the grip
of the late afternoon sun going down
behind the huddled houses. The seat
which is higher than the sun now,
and the handlebars which are approximately
two stars, together form my north and south poles.
My spine is the prime meridian. My nose
sticks out over the top of the hill, on top
of the world, sniffing the air for the bottom.

Paul Hostovsky


On the ground the leaves are shattered pieces
of sunlight. All is quiet save
the last cricket whose sounding is like a
casual fingernail invisibly
drawn across an autumn slate. Just after
star rise the Moon and Mars and Venus form
a triangle in the southwestern sky
as the bare tree holds its empty branches
like pointers toward the chalky smear of
sapphire, beryline, and pale amethyst.
And I am just old enough to recall
the lives (not only the stories of the
lives) of the teachers who taught us all the
important lessons like how to take
apart the sky and how to put it back
together once again.

Lois Staas

for Leon

Crab, you say you have no home
but you carry your home
around your body
and your stars say
you are a homebody

I see your bright blue eyes
that peer out at the stars
holding grief
carrying woe

Your brain rides on the mists spurted
through a humpback whale's hole
the red dwarf stars above are cascading
colliding in a sightless galaxy
while Rumi's verses warm your soul

You burrowed under and scurried sideways
fast, dodging lightening, monstrous waves
leaving your outer shell charred
but unscarred

Friend, you already carry your home on your body
and on a banging drumbeat day
all grief will be pushed passed
having no name
bearing no witnesses
at home.

Lisa Salerno Honecker


unaffected by inhibition
we flow like fire
in the dark expanse
we are binary
in the night sky
flicker and remind you
of what used to be
you remember you
the whole story
and here you are now
after all that was
do you see it now
in the dark expanse
que sera sera
and so it goes

John Von Curd


And when the fire begins to peel my flesh back,
I know my body will feel nothing.
As my eyes shift to the back of my head,
I see stars on a canvas.
A tiny piece of dust in a vacuum
Holds magnificence and excellence in my arms,
While the world may weep for my arbitrary harm.
I breathe in the life as it digs in my skin.
I wish for my life to have existence,
But when I stare at the sky I feel emptiness,
Blackness, covered by stars.
I wonder if it can feel the loneliness of a heart.
As the taste of purple covers my tongue,
I stare at the night and swallow the sun;
And its violence and purity
Is more than it seems.
My life has a purpose
Beyond my selfish simplicities.
I am a being floating among similar light
We all look like stars in the vastness of night.
As my peak begins to take hold,
I ask the sky with contemplative resistance,
“If there are billions of stars and nothing to prove
Or disbelieve this,
How do I know myself,
How do I finally achieve peacefulness?”
As the last word left my mouth,
The sky replied with a short silent sigh,
“If there is only one of you but millions like you,
Is there no way to know oneself?
You know the answer to be yes,
But your lack of experience hinders your intelligence.”
“Then what do I do to unlock this chain of reality?”
The night air spoke silently, sweeping into my ear,
“It’s simple...look at the sky, what do you see?
Billions of stars, fire, destruction, all within this black sea,
Now turn around and face your home.”
At that moment, my eyes finally opened
I looked back and realized I was one of the stars
Watching...gazing at...infinity.
After this I realized, and I started to cry,
That every creature on our planet
Big, small, large, tiny, ugly, beautiful
There are billions of lifeforms,
With a weakness to die.
So if there are billions of stars in the emptiness
All capable of the beauty of my own exsistere
Then I know I’ll be okay
As I ascend and step on one final stair...

Alexander Monday


i once lived in a place
where shooting stars
were a dime a dozen

at midnight a few of us
would gather in the park
cast our wishes to the sky

from a distance the small flames
from our candles formed strange new
constellations of their own

yellow orange flickerings
against the midnight blue
of a september horizon

when i first arrived in this
rocky mountain town
i was alone

feeling like a fish out of water
awkwardly flopping about in
search of a welcoming face

wondering why you left and
if those shooting stars carried
the messages i longed to hear

Marie A. Mennuto-Rovello


My father was Aquarius. He bore jar after jar
of the water that stood between us. I’d mix them
with wine in secret, a bitter and drunken reminder
that sent him to the well again and again and again.

My mother was Cancer, which used to be a Scarab,
symbol of immortality, but then she became the crab,
an x-ray visible to the naked eye, metastasized
across the lowering western sky.

I arrived on the cusp of Libra, on a date
two days before that when cancer would take my father
and five days after that when it would take my mother.
In this way, I am the scales, and all is balanced upon me.

R.G. Evans


Oh to write about the stars that twinkle in the night.
Three in the sky end Shabbos.
My religious nieces celebrate and plan an outing.
They had tried bars with no success.
A romantic movie; everyone likes romantic movies.
Young girls who dream of romance;
Old ladies whose eyes twinkle remembering
When they danced and danced and danced all night.
And me
Wish I may, wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.

Ellen Kaplan


Looking up to familiar stars
Unfamiliar stars
Stars that make shapes
And tell stories

And stars that don't

But maybe those stars do belong
In a family
Tied together with the strongest of bonds
All there to bring back to life
The tales of the people before us

And maybe we just can't tell
Maybe we will never know

But I guess as long as there will be naïve, oblivious people
Young people
On either side of me
There will be careful, wise people
To guide us like the North Star

Maybe tell us the stories the night sky illustrates
So we can tell them again and again
So the people before us will not be forgotten
So we will not be forgotten

Maybe those stars don't belong
Maybe none of them do
Maybe we've all just deluded ourselves
So we'll believe this fairy tale
All these fairy tales
So we can create for ourselves a false sense of order

And maybe all it takes
Is to step out into the dark
And learn something new
Or rediscover something you've forgotten

Maybe all it takes
Is to look up

Haley Shaheen


The prize was to explore new stars
No longer familiar Polaris or Little Bear,
The band of Pleaides or the Milky Way,
It was to be the south’s Magellanic Clouds,
The dazzling Canopus Carinie.

But the smog of the southern hemisphere
Where the winds were East to West
Where the air of Lima reeked of cheap old cars
Where people only longed for the sea’s air.
It was not a world a scholar anticipated.

He pressed himself quicker to the interior
No heart of darkness of the young
But a city of drabness and hard work,
Small factories with muddy walls.
It seemed his mentor applauds his willing work
Relentless going about chores
The piling up of raw statistics
As bales of cotton on a loading dock
It was the work of ten in fellowship years
But no one was willing to say, To Phaeton
It is enough, too much, enjoy yourself
The laboratory time was just too much

He did not say to himself, enough, enough
It was not pausing to look at the stars
But driving himself as a Helios’ son
To try to follow the sun, Helios to heights,

It is a grandiose prospect,
To pursue the sun or stars,
He made a mantra of his work
Thinking he could never crash.
He never had the chance to learn
What imperfection and being human teach,
For the world and sun go on.
He had the inner demons of success
Only the constant moon is within ones reach.
To escape from failure;
It cancels or erases doubt of learning
Think of those under drawn lines
That remind one of greatness
Lack perfection at the every chance.

Edward N. Halperin


You and I are as constellations,
bleeding light across the universe,
as every ray emitted intertwines limb,
so shall we intertwine,
Sagittarius can only stray the arrow
fore Virgo bends in with a desired kiss.
The sensation burns with expectancy,
as the centaur’s passion overflows,
set a blaze,

Nicholas DeLisa


I saw a shooting
star the night you died, when all
the world turned to dust.
My arms held you close but
not close enough while your life
ebbed and flowed and ebbed again,
then finally you were gone.
And I was left to
tell the news to your loved ones
waiting in the dark.
Then we all looked up
Into the night sky to see
you passing overhead.
Au revoir my darling:
We'll catch you on the flipside.

Maddison Ross

The night
around sleeping Mother Earth.

Sun shuffles
            to the background
and allows Sister Moon and Twinkling Stars
take the stage for their nocturnal recital.

Long dark shadows
           dance their way
across mountains, hills and streams
while Sun slides away for a short respite
from sleepy eyes.

The powerful All Father
           tucks a twinkling blanket around the universe
waiting once again for the cycle to repeat
as it has for past millennia.

Mother Earth sighs in relief
           as the Star Children wink and flicker,
entertaining Her as She rests amongst her children.

Kristie Stilley


When I was a young girl,
there were more stars;
spreading out on an inky tapestry,
twinkling over my head, and
on a quarter moon night,
falling into the creek
that rippled at my feet.
I slipped into the night,
my 'shadow' etched onto
a jagged horizon, invisible
in the same darkness that
brought stars to life.
Roaming the soot-gray fields
with unseen creatures, I would kneel
under a blackness, lighted
by a gazillion tiny lights.
I miss the stars of my childhood.
I have traveled too far
now, and on the journey,
I've lost the innocence
that once pulled me out and
stretched my small hands upward,
where I cupped the stars like
a million tiny pieces of glass.

Karen Kimbell


The meeting over, we leave San Francisco
for Yosemite, late September hints at dark
long before we reach sharp esses in the route.
Four, five, maybe ten miles out from the park,
we come to treacherous passes, reflectors
between two lanes the only guide.

I'm back on the tour bus in the Upper Galilee,
passengers joking that if we lean left we won't
drop into the sungold valley below.
But it's dark in California, no high guardrail
to keep us from descent into a void where our
children won't find us, where we'll never know
grandchildren from the marriage that awaits
on our return east.

My husband asks me to stop whimpering, you
distract me, he says, do you want me to swerve,
hit a car coming at us? What car? It's late,
we're alone. I lean left, my weight a feather
in this two-ton iron universe. I make silent

Don't let us go over the ledge,
don't let us go over the ledge
and I promise-

I roll down my window, dare to face the emptiness,
spot earth's deep dome filled with dotted light,
dancing shapes from long-ago skies, summer nights
in camp, an open field, children splayed on the grass,
the Big Dipper, eternally pouring contents into its
little companion. Keep your eye on the road,
I tell my husband, but you would love what I see,
I can reach out and touch it.

Soon a road sign, two miles to the south entrance.
Welcome to Yosemite.

Gail Fishman Gerwin


Most clearly,
When white wisps of clouds trail like exhaust
Around the banked testing track of heaven,
His Model T, all black and polished,
Sparkling from welds of starlight,
Tours the macadam nights of June.

He oversees us,
Constructing our lives by his plan:
To someday have the grace
To purchase what we make,
Knowing that being unemployed,
Not exiled,
Is our greatest disgrace.

And those of us who are fallen,
Who patiently assemble in the line
That stretches outside his employment office,
Awaiting election,
As silent as Catholic children before the slap of Confirmation,
Glance up this night,
And would gladly wipe his windshield with the sleeves of our tattered shirts,
So that he may see the dawn he is perpetually driving towards,
And hire us.

Ron Yazinski


I'm here in an iceland a thousand miles away
but your 'blue-eyed' shyness with me will stay
Before I could say anything, you flew away
but there soon will come a brand new day
when I'll cross the seven seas and hold them at bay
Crash down through the stars and take you away
up into the night where the angels play
and make you forget all night and day
Hold you so close, take your breath away
And together we'll sail through the starry array
They'll shine down on us, the world will sway
a million miles away, and you will be mine that day.

I'll travel the light years in the blink of an eye
and bring you the lights to which you sigh
All the light in the cosmos for you I'd pray
God bless me and forever keep it that way
The dimensions will fade, and if I dare say
I'll light everything in your life that was gray
and you'll shine so bright the stars will fade away
Yes, I'll take you into that night, I won't stray
and we'll be voyagers into that endless bay
The 'angels' will be green, they'll say we stay
but we'll leave them behind, they're gods of clay
You & me, we'll be so happy together
All I want my darling, is your forever...

Deepinder Singh Bandesha