Two hours before dawn, (woken by cats hungry for philosophy),
Frost by moonlight, yet so many stars, swung round, hefted northerly.
There, the smudge of Pleiades, bright above the upper field,
Tempting to be counted, (we are never happy if not counting, naming,).
Oh ye city folk, still numb and dreaming, adolescent nonchalence
Washed drab and starless in neon pools, who look up as far as street names only,
Who care not for the whence and whereto of any thing, parcelled time, demarcated space,
The here, vaguely mapped sufficiently, the now, a dusty film, a slick of petrochemical colour.
They were souls once,
they were spirits -
these roving, cold bright stars,
We have economised, rationalised, downsized, both thought and language.
Hawked, shrugged, scratched, sauntered away (arrogant swagger, studied indifference).
Where once were many, a constellation of souls, a menagerie, a family, a clan, now none.
An empty mansion, windowless, faint smell of urine, ash, stale food, skitter of mouse.
Perhaps one ghost is allowed, never seen, never fed, an ancient inconvenience, a nostalgia.
Before, before ( that word, a sound that roars like a sea, grey wave rolling in, rolling out),
We were ensouled, enspirited,
A soul for the mechanics of earth,
Another spirit unsullied,
Untouched by gravitation.
And before that, even, each hidden mover, each part, each vital air,
Was known and named, assigned its proper home, ensured a place of continuance,
In earth, in rock, in tree, in sky, in sun, in star.
here and there,
scattered like seed,
lost but ready to rise in forms and ways,
Calculated and considered, maintained, sung to, taken out, remembered, polished, fed.
Only the here,
We believed in atoms indivisible,
Things to pin down,
Things to plot.
No crystalline spheres to peer through,
No slow revolving, no ascent, no soul required.
But then, (never learning to let things be), we poked and pushed ’til form dissolved.
This unsplittable opened to component parts,
(named, weighed, approved, assigned purpose).
And those too, found to have a before, a smaller cause, beginning of beginning.
Determined to find what is
(The counting of stars, the sift, the song)
The certain dissolves, though stalwart Reason, optimistic, remains.
An indeterminate number of souls.
That is the dance
Within each one of us,
Of frost-bright mornings,
Drunk and burning
In cold air
still with moonlit silence.
A revolving, constellated brightness,
A sky river, a flock, a formation, a migration,
A seasonal coming and going.
We are not held steady nor monochromatic by this fluff of autocratic science,
The redactions wear thin, threadbare, barely enough to cover false modesty.
Bluster conclusions abound, bombast, a dislike of stories.
But it is still dark, still dark
The ghosts of dawn flicker and stir.
I would be dust, shining, scattered, returned home,
A cave inhabited with warm echo,
Voices of the familiar, watching embers, watching embers.