Astrophil

By Eloisa Griffiths
Photo by Isabel Mitchelson

There used to be more stars in the sky.

I remember, when I was young, me and my sister and my dad would lay on a lilo in the back garden, with tin camping mugs of hot chocolate, and watch for the silvery streak of a meteor across the spilled-ink dark of the sky. Matchlight bright and matchlight quick – they flared and they died. Perseids. An August shower. And there was a backdrop of so many stars they looked like clouds hewn of light. Citadels, islands, countries, seas, which had somehow found themselves mapped in the sky, haloed in light. The whole spangled wheel of the zodiac, turning, churning up that airborne ocean. Histories hung between the polar sheets of the Auroras. The ancient world carved into the heavens. Choruses of galaxies visible.

 

***

 

Now, barely a handful of years later, mere Davids compared to the Goliath lifespan of those stars, all that remains are orange-bellied clouds, humped like pods of sick whales, beached, on the bank of a jetstream. Stalactites of murk cling to a ceilinged sky. An infernal mirror, reflecting the ugly, electric, human imitations of the night. Heavens made hell.

 

But I must remember, amidst all this gloom, all this wreckage, that even though they are far-flung away and I cannot see them, the stars are still shining, somewhere.

In my eve-dreams I remember them – sometimes I see them still – when I am home, when the dusk falls like love to kiss the earth – slow, slow at first, then you blink and all at once it is dark, dark as pitch. The sky bleeds black and blue and I drink the twilight into my lungs and you can see them there on the Hesperus-hued horizon.

Or is it just half-imagined? Maybe the stars are only inside me now, locked up in my head – ghosts of stars which exist only in the past.

I soak in memory, while dreaming, no – nightmaring – of a future where the sky is dead, and creeping smog entombs the earth instead.

But inside this future, wrapped up in darkness visible, darkness tangible, I am telling my children of the hunters and bears and virgins and wolves who used to dance across the night sky.

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© Helicon Magazine 2019

University of Bristol