Astarte

Up before dawn with old songs playing in my head and the planet Venus slowly winking in and out of sight through the leaves of an oak. Great-horned and screech owls call off and on above the horizon notes of night insects, that endless braid. The half-light of the half-moon lends an undersea feeling to things, a glimpse almost of how the world might look without six billion bright-eyed humans to dream it awake.

Feeling a little like a refugee, I sit as always, unmoving, in my accustomed spot. If I shifted my chair on the porch by as little as three inches to the right or left, everything would be thrown off-kilter. To call me a creature of habit would be a vast understatement. But without such stillness and fidelity, how could I mark the changes? The safe vantagepoint is the only one that lasts.

I do allow my imagination to run, old hound, sniffing out the day-old narratives of loss and lust. But it comes to heel when I call; it knows how to listen. From the yard, the scrabbling of claws on bark. Up in the woods, a footfall, an explosive snort. A high-pitched quaver suddenly close at hand.

Astarte, I whisper, preferring this older name for the morning star. Instigator of holy desire, giving the topmost leaves the slip at last! This hour I have spent with one eye on her progress was well worth the loss in sleep.

Stillness, fidelity, and the inner ear: the body’s spirit level, from which alone we can know trajectory and motion. Then, too, one could hardly distinguish figure from ground or find a body’s coordinates in space without that slender string we call memory. Half-conscious of it I’m telling the beads of a thousand other such moments, so slowly does the dawn come, so incrementally do outlines and colors emerge – tall goldenrod, the banks of white snakeroot – and so long does it take for that blazing ember to drown in a sea of light.
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This is my contribution to the Ecotone wiki topic Making a Safe Space. See also my essay + translation from April 30 called Man doesn’t exist.

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