moon and star over mountains
Photo by Iman Gozal on Unsplash

Note to readers: this poem is best viewed on a full-screen device or in mobile desktop mode.

Astronomy by Karen Arnold

This month Venus, 1.5 million miles from Earth

rises at sunset—lingers just above the horizon

flirting with us like infatuation

where we shop, work, carry on our coupling

It may trick us glimmering in haze and reflections

glancing off dust our lives raise on the planet

be mistaken for a plane, lining up for touch down

flashing mixed messages in the nearly-night sky

Venus, hovering beyond comprehension—

love planet visible just a few half-bright hours

summons a half-draped, armless, marble nude

turned slightly toward a barely audible call—

low in the sky

gone by the time night floods rising space

with gleams that signal distance

Venus, barely marking the March sky

your habits, your appearance, your allure elude me,

anchored to a site close by, small planet

set low in my body

a landscape not quite 1.5 million miles from my center

whose rising has shifted to a shadow

hovers in the lives of my daughters

an all but forgotten presence

eclipsed by distance covered

marks the border of my next season

in tides of energy and moon spells


Karen Arnold writes: As a literary wanderer, my journey has included: being Poet-in-Residence at Montpelier Cultural arts Center in Laurel, MD; teaching at universities in the United States, Sweden and Norway; teaching creative writing and autobiography writing to adults and children; creating and facilitating reading and discussion series in Literature and Medicine and for veterans in conjunction with Maryland Humanities, local hospitals, libraries and cultural arts centers. Along the way I got a Masters and Ph.D. at the University of Maryland College Park where I worked with Reed Whittemore, former US Poet Laureate and spent a year as assistant Director of Freshman Composition. I live and work in Maryland within easy reach of the wide ocean beaches I love.

Author's note

Driving home from Baltimore around seven o’clock on a fall night the radio show StarDate came on describing the sky spread over 95 as I headed out. I think it was a Friday and the week behind had been full. My body was moving toward menopause and listening to how Venus would trick us in the sky opened a floodgate of images and thoughts. Daughter of a pilot, a Midwestern childhood spent under the wide sky and years of watching clouds, sun and fronts over Illinois spawned my sky-fascination. When this poem started, musings about my life, the science of Venus’s appearance as well as art and tales evoked by its name created a connection that reached back centuries. Distance, movement and myth accompanied me home and into the poem.

"Astronomy" originally appeared in Gyroscope's Fall 2020 edition, Issue 20-4.