The Weight of the Stars

By: hollypod (School of Physics and Astronomy)
Competition Year: 2016
Votes (1) | Comments (0)
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I’d taken myself up a tree, for the ground
had been pulling magnetic fields on the blood
and I’d wanted to hear the stars. And round
the mottled path he shuffled, footsteps muffled
by winking drops in the grass. His hands –
Clasped, his face all dip and shadow and eyes cast down
He moved with granite in bones and I,
I welcomed his granite for I can make feathers of stones.

With easel and brush he stood, paused
in his time, in his tunnel. I asked
What of the stillness? The grey in your cause?
He told me that grey had settled on skin like carbon fumes
over the years and smudged with his tears
as his world had struck blow upon blow on itself
and the landscapes he mirrored weren’t dead –
They just weren’t alive.

Put down your easel, your oils and your brush,
for you shall not paint ‘till you are not blind
Stop looking so hard – instead try to see;
Not just with your eyes! – you must see with your mind.
A bespectacled man told me once that this world is what-ever you make of it, but I
know him to be wrong, there’s just more to the world
than a blinkered soul ever finds.

I showed him the woods at mid-day and how
the light all pulsed in rivulets, and undulating,
danced and fed into pools of gold which trembled alive
with the leaves and the stone beneath the floor.
The energy here, that shivered, that bred
the intricate shapes that we saw.

I showed him the water, the waves and the weight
of the crests, compressed like pressurized smoke,
Choked, contained, chained stirring to earth,
‘till it climbed and swelled and swayed as it rose,
Alone; not a break, not a crack nor a fault
for cohesion and simmering, crackling pattern
made gravity grind to a ground-breaking halt
till all of the weight folded and creased as it dropped
and shattered and spoke:

I showed him the stars as they were without glass –
a light so ancient, far and fast
that a prism of knowledge governs and guides its presence,
its web and ethereal path. A glittering dome! –
where anarchy reigns, disorder maintains a decline that arcs
just over our heads! A flickering spread –
A power more shining and whole than your
God, more profound than your oceans, your emptiest skies,
for it trembles in us; it’s written in blood,
the inherent code we live by.

In that first moment when my eyes had touched
on those of the painter, in his there had been
a film, stretched taught – now loosened to water, now turned by the rhythm of what he had seen,
With the weight of the stars, to his easel and brush, and,
not a word, he took them back up
and there from the tip spilled all of the matter, the energy
pulsing afresh in his blood.

That week I heard talk of a frenzied man
who could capture the stars with a flick of his hand,
who stored sunlight and wind on a canvas to sell,
took portraits of earth using colour from heaven
and pattern from hell and somewhere in me
a fear was sown – with sight there comes knowledge and knowledge is weight
too much for one mind alone.
So I searched out the painter to warn him that being
and clarity came with a price; that seeing
the stars was a burden
as well as a light.

I found him creased on a quiet street.
His arms round his knees, a hole in his head,
no shoes on his feet and he looked up and saw me and crumpled still more –
“Make it stop,” he said, “I can see it all,
every star every stone, I have it in here, I wanted it out
so I cut off my ear but I saw only blood and it’s in there still,
it’s burning me up! It’s making me ill!”
I looked down at the cobbles which glimmered with rain,
sky-water from mountains and oceans and plains and
pipes, and I knew that the bounded pain
he felt was a constant I could not change, so, like always
I watched and I walked away.

I have travelled and I have seen, I have unravelled
an honesty. I have witnessed a cosmos’ birth and I
have seen it all from Earth. I stand, I watch, I never take part, but in truth
I never believed he could last with my eyes,
when before all he knew was a quiet, a sadness
to help him to see in the dark.
I’m there in the future and there in the past so
I have seen death but have not played a part –
the death of the painter will stay in my heart
for I was the one who crushed his spirit
beneath the weight of the stars.
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