Celestial Bodies
Poems by Maureen Seaton

Links: The Days to Come | Save Yourself for Better Times
Mourning | Adorable Things | Lefty: A Meditation
Happy Birthday, John | Attempts at a Definition of Celestial Bodies

The Days to Come

They say that Earth harbors clarity within her compass,
that whichever direction she points to will come true.

I used to live in New York City where poets ran around
like unplugged felons shouting in the wind, exhilarated.

I dug up opals, feldspar, the dust of stars, and plucked 
lights from the oceans that no longer exist, but they did.

50 million years ago the horse (Equus) was 9 inches high,
weighed 9 lbs, and had 3 toes. I am not making this up.

When I look at you, you shift between left eye and right,
changing pathways in my brain, rerouting the way I love.

“I love you, my brothers and sisters. I fuckin love you”—
front and back of a handheld sign in Albuquerque, NM.

I wrote a song in C-sharp major and played it in the key
of D-flat minor as if I’d never played capriccioso before.

This has to be a good sign for the days to come, I said
to every goddess and renegade. This has to be symbolic.

Save Yourself for Better Times

                                        —the Aeneid

I will not save myself for better times.
I will use myself up now—and then

I will use myself up again tomorrow.
It’s why my eyes stay open all night

and my heart throws itself to the stars.
To see which ones decide to stand still

and grow a constellation around me.


The day the hawk ate the dove, dropping pearly feathers beneath the linden tree,
I was not expecting a rattlesnake on the side of a mountain, unused as I was to both
mountains and rattlesnakes.

                                                        My father made pizzas, my mother an excellent meatloaf.
What did I know of the instinct to kill or go hungry?

                                                                                                    So I hiked up a neighboring hill
to find something violent I could make peace with—rockslide, wolf print, bleeding sun
behind the peaks. The sudden sound spun me around, and I caught myself

pondering survival—how it worked that the dove, whom I’d tracked from birth,
was suddenly gone, and the hawk, whom I’d never met, had flown away full and
safe for one more day.
                                           I held the truth of it awkwardly, a human on the cusp of wisdom or
despair, then stepped slowly around the snake, who’d warned me first, then let me pass.

Adorable Things

                    Duck eggs.
                    An urn containing the relics of some holy person.
                    Wild pinks. 
                                            —Sei Shōnagon, The Pillow Book 

If I were to make my own list of adorable things,
I’d include duck eggs and wild pinks, but not

an urn containing the relics of some holy person
even though I collected relics when I was very

young, which I would add to my list of adorable
things: A little girl who collects the clothing and bones

of dead people. I owned one adorable relic, though.
It could have been an actual “first-class” relic

of St. Peregrine, patron saint of cancer victims,
or St. Andrew the Scot, born in the 9th C, AD,

or his sister, St. Bridget, who was carried to her
brother’s deathbed by an angel all the way from

Ireland. What made the relic extremely adorable
was that there was a genuine chip of human bone

in the sealed metal case. And there was a hint of
red bow around the bone resembling dried blood,

yes, and a tiny window in the ancient reliquary
so you could gaze at the bone for hours and think

someday, if you were very good and/or very very
holy, that ancient relic could actually be you.

Lefty: A Meditation

Once there was a girl whose father taught her to bat lefty. That way, he said, she would be closer to first. Everything else she did, she did righty—throwing, catching, eating, pushing the bangs out of her eyes. But she was an excellent left-handed hitter. You might say: for a girl. But you would be mistaken. Her father told her about the Camogie games that came right out of Ireland. He listened with attention when she recited “Casey at the Bat.” And when she praised her favorite player—Bobby Thomson—he smiled proudly. But it was making her a lefty that she ranks highest among his gifts to her. Whenever she hears Batter up! she thinks of him holding her firmly by the shoulders, turning her ninety degrees, then stepping back and saying proudly: Go ahead, Lizzie Tish, swing!

Happy Birthday, John

You were not my favorite. I’m sorry. I was seventeen &
 not even remotely cool. Ha ha. (You know what I mean.)
By the time I was a bonafide hooligan you were the out-
rageous one and I loved you before & during Yoko;

& since you & I will always be sign mates, even after we’ve
been dead for years (you died in 1980, I hope to make it

past 2021), we know what beautiful means & we know how
to imagine just about anything. In this case, on your birthday,

with mine around the corner, in this precious world with her
minor kings & major assholes, it still & always will be peace.

Attempts at a Definition of Celestial Bodies

The purpose in creating this definition was to limit the number of planets in our Solar
System so that school kids wouldn’t have to memorize long lists of planets.
                                   —Dr. Alan Stern, NASA, I Heart Pluto Festival 2021
                                             In memory of Planet Pluto (1930-2006)

Now that our ninth rock has been demoted to a sloppy snowball, kids,
don’t say My Very Elegant Mother Just Served Us Nine Pies as our pantheon’s
mnemonic, say: My Vaguely Equipped Mother Just Served Us Noodles.

Pluto, Greek god of shady cosmogony, keeps wielding agita among the
pros who try so hard to get our universe right, his heavenly namesake
slipping and sliding, grape on a plate, pebble of insufficient clout.

Or no clout at all—like a first wife surrounded by rowdy kids in a messy
kitchen. Still, a small probe once hurtled toward the has-been (or never-
was) planet, carrying an urn of (formerly) famous ashes.

Whose? Pluto’s dad, Clyde Tombaugh, born in Illinois, died in New
Mexico (both states stand proudly behind Pluto’s planethood), and whose
ashes were tossed into space from a flyby.

I like the word flyby. It’s got altitude and attitude. Like: I came all this way
to see you, Pluto, hell, it’s taken, what, nine years? But I can’t stay, don’t
ask. Then Clyde’s remains go catapulting through the ice belt.

Now when I planet-gaze, I imagine Pluto circling the sun as always, 
eccentric frisbee, puny superhero, icy underling. I don’t believe in Hades, 
but I do believe in Pluto. (Planetary paradox.)

Maybe there’s a world we reach at night by boat or undercover, mercy on
the other side. I stick Pluto with its five moons on my bedroom ceiling 
and dream a route.

Maureen Seaton has authored two dozen poetry collections, both solo and collaborative—recently, Undersea (JackLeg, 2021) and Sweet World (CavanKerry, 2019), winner of the 2019 Florida Book Award. Honors include Lambda Literary Awards for Lesbian Poetry and Lesbian Memoir, Audre Lorde Award, NEA, and Pushcart. Seaton is Professor Emerita of English at the University of Miami. She was voted Miami’s Best Poet 2020 by The Miami New Times. 

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