Poem of the Week | January 21, 2009

This week we are proud to feature “The Heavy Light of Shifting Stars” by Michael Collier, which originally appeared in TMR 12:1 (1989). Michael Collier is the author of five books of poetry: Dark Wild Realm (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), The Ledge (Houghton Mifflin, 2000), The Neighbor (University of Chicago, 1995), The Folded Heart (Wesleyan, 1989), and The Clasp and Other Poems (Wesleyan, 1986). Collier has also published a collection of essays: Make Us Wave Back (University of Michigan, 2007), and a translation of Euripides’ Medea (Oxford University Press, 2006). In addition, he edited The Wesleyan Tradition: Four Decades of American Poetry (Wesleyan, 1993) and several other poetry anthologies. Collier is a Professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park, and currently serves as the director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

The Heavy Light of Shifting Stars

                Sometimes the nite is the shape
of a ear only it ain’t a ear
we know the shape of.
-Russell Hoban
Riddley Walker

The huge magnanimous stars are many things.
At night we lower window shades
to mute the sparkling circuitry of the universe;
at day the sun’s clear mist, like a beautiful
cabinetry, shrouds the workings of the sky.

Everything is hidden, everything is apparent,
so that light coming toward us, held
in the faces of our old regrets, is blue;
while the light passing away, blurred
by our stationary focus, is red.

We cannot see these colors with our eyes,
just as we cannot feel the sun pushing the stars
outward or bending the paths of their light.
Years ago when the world was flat, and then even
when the world became round, light was light,

dark was dark, and now, now that the world
is almost nothing compared with all that is-
all that we know-light identified each atom
of the universe, and darkness swallows stars
like a whirlpool at the heart of a galaxy.

The huge magnanimous stars are many things.
We look to the sky and ask, What has changed?
Everything.  But nothing we can see, and our seeing
changes nothing, until we move, and moving
we become the light of our atoms moving.