Steven Heighton




After bedtime the child climbed on her dresser

and peeled phosphorescent stars off the sloped

gable-wall, dimming the night vault of her ceiling

like a haze or the interfering glow

of a great city, small hands anticipating

eons as they raided the playful patterns     

her father had mapped for her—black holes now

where the raised thumb-stubs and ears of the Bat

had been, the feet of the Turtle, wakeful

eyes of the Mourning Dove.  She stuck those paper

stars on herself.  One on each foot, the backs

of her hands, navel, tip of nose and so on,  

then turned on the lamp by her bed and stood close

like a child chilled after a winter bath

pressed up to an air duct or a radiator

until those paper stars absorbed more light

than they could hold.  Then turned off the lamp,

walked out into the dark hallway and called.


 Her father came up.  He heard her breathing

as he clomped upstairs preoccupied, wrenched

out of a rented film just now taking grip

on him and the child's mother, his day-end

bottle of beer set carefully on the stairs,

marking the trail back down into that evening

adult world—he could hear her breathing (or

really, more an anxious, breathy giggle) but

couldn’t see her, then in the hallway stopped,

mind spinning to sort the apparition         

of fireflies hovering ahead, till he sensed

his daughter and heard in her breathing

the pent, grave concentration of her pose,

mapped onto the star-chart of the darkness,

arms stretched high, head back, one foot slightly raised—

the Dancer, he supposed, and all his love

spun to centre with crushing force, to find her

momentarily fixed, as unchanging

as he and her mother must seem to her,

and the way the stars are; as if the stars are. 



You Slept Better Then


Masks I shed and left by the roadside

share this view with me tonight.

(Blue hills, and beyond the snowcloud

an inkling of the lake.)


Here’s one that fit all right—

I wore it sometimes when I loved you, and stowed it

away like a weapon, loaded

whenever you slept.


You never knew.  You slept better then.


And if you felt something brittle, break

just barely, just under the skin

when you touched my lips, or kept

kissing and kissing my eyes, you never did let on.


Bone, I would have told you.  Bone.



More poems by Heighton >>

Sentinel Poetry (Online) #41

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF POETRY & GRAPHICS...Since 2002     ISSN 1479-425X     April 2006

Editor: Amatoristero Ede

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