Stargazing

by Ariana Nadia Nash

The stars are all the skin
I’ll never touch. They are
the bright points of years
I have not lived, the names

I do not know. They speak
to worlds inside myself
I will not learn. They shock—
this spread of stars, these motes

of fireballs, this milky
conflagration. In their depth
and beauty, they are

the most intricate map
of the unknown, the most
wild moan of silence.

Ariana Nadia Nash is the author of Instructions for Preparing Your Skin, which won the 2011 Philip Levine Prize in Poetry, and is forthcoming from Anhinga Press. Her chapbook, Our Blood Is Singing, is also forthcoming from Damask Press. She is a recipient of a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize and a MacDowell Colony residency. Her work can be found in The Mom Egg, Main Street Rag, Rock & Sling, and The Café Review.

Wow, did you take on a subject (stargazing) that I would think is impossible to find a fresh “gaze” at. But you did it! How?

    Well, practically speaking, I spent a lot of time staring at the night sky. When I wrote this poem, I was lucky enough to be in residency at The MacDowell Colony. While I was there, I had a half-mile walk back to my studio each night, and once I was more accustomed to the silence and open space and darkness, I walked it without a flashlight. Many poems came out of the stillness of that experience, and out of observing the night sky while I was there. Originality is often fostered by time and space, and in this case, the organizations that generously gift these tools to artists. In the specific case of “Stargazing,” I remember thinking about how to capture the sense of deep wonder and longing the stars create, and while reaching up as if to try to touch the stars, the first line just arrived into my mind. Somewhere intuitively, as if someone had given me the meaning, I made a connection between the stars and the multitude of experiences that are not open to us in our temporal, human experience. The rest of the poem came effortlessly after.

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