186. After Dark

“That’s called The Big
Dipper. Or
The Plow.”
“I know.”

They lay on
A quilt out in the field.
The house, far-off,
Barely within sight,
Glimmered like
A jewel-box in the night.

Louise had
Appeared in time for
Dinner, raw scratch
Near her eye.
Tom, she knew, was
Gone–to County
Seat–would not
Return till late.
Riah’d set
A place and let her stay.
Listless from
The heat, they’d rushed their
Evening meal and
Cleaned up quick,
Hauling quilt and
James, to move outside.
Now he slept
Between them as they lay.
He breathed deeply,
Hair as sweet as hay.

“So–you know
The stars? Oh, I
Forgot: McKenna
Knows it all!”
Louise teased, but
Riah did not speak:
Stretching out,
Her strong matchstick
Body took its ease.
Rumpled dirt slid
Soft beneath her back.
Although dry, it
Smelled almost alive.
“Riah, listen–
Here’s a notion
For you–ever
Learn Star Science?”
Riah, dozing: “Hmm?”
“Star Science!” Louise,
Gazing upward,
Palms behind her neck.
“Stars pull at your
Life! Which ones are
Yours? Just tell me
What’s your birthday!”
Riah murmured back.

“Ah–as I
Suspected! You’re that
Bull-head! Ruled by
Taurus. See? There
Yonder: called
The Bull. Means you
Stay put, and you
Hold your ground.
Where I’m pointing,
Look up!” Riah

“Triangle, that’s his
Head. Big star, his eye.”
Riah squinted:
Louise knew exactly
What she’d say. Riah
Concentrated, peering, and then
Ventured: “Don’t look
Nothing like a bull.”
“Lord have
Mercy! Oh, sweet
Jesus! Give me
Patience!” Louise
Scolded Riah:
“It’s a bull,
A bull! Those stars–horns!”
Riah shrugged. “I guess.”
“And there’s
Mine! The Ram,
Aries! Ain’t no
Woman made these
Names up. Else we’d
Lie here saying,
Oh look, there’s Big
Hen! There’s Egg
Basket in
The stars! Look, there’s
Kitchen Sink!
Anyhow, my
Stars mean I’m born
Up to something.
What’s James’ birthday?”
“To the side then,
You see those two
Stars, both bright
The same?
Sister, Brother,
They’re called–or
The Twins.”

Far crickets’ reedy
Throbbing waxed and waned.
Riah’s thumb flicked
Dead bug off
The quilt. She wondered
Idly: how did
Crickets live? Sip
Air for drink? Their
Measured peaceful
Stitch-stitch lulled her ears.
Drowsily she
Laid her hand on James.

Louise: “That’s not
All! Special
Flower that goes
With each constellation. Mine’s
Jonquil. Yours, sweet pea.
Louise searched for
More. “And there’s
Special jewels.
You’d get diamond.
Mine’s aquamarine.
His is emerald, green.
Riah, don’t you
See,” she pleaded,
“Kind of like
A story. And these
Pretty things,
The right ones belong to
You–the story
Makes it so.
Makes them belong….”

Riah stirred.
Cool, delicious
Night air bathed her face,
James’ mild breathing
Sighing at her side:
Riah’s stiff back
Fleetingly untensed.

“Hell, you’re
Right!” Louise laughed
Sharply. “Diamonds!
Twins and bulls.
Shook her head.
“Who gets the last
Laugh, though? Why, it’s
Them”: she nodded
Toward the sky. “Us
Telling them they
Look like bulls and
Rams! Big deal. You’re
Turn another
Way, the pictures
Change–makes any
Picture! Bunch of
Dots, and bolts of
Empty space, and
On the ground some
Joker, spinning yarns.
Drawing pictures:
Louise screwed up her
Face. “Up there they
See it all, I
Guess. They hear it
All. But never

Could be why”:
Riah, now awake.
Louise: “Don’t give us
Nothing.” Riah
Smiled: “All those
Stories you just
Told.” She nudged James
“Wake up! Make
A wish!”

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