Anne Compton

Stars, Sunday Dawn

Declination: the angular distance of a star, north or south of a celestial marker.

Mornings, the boy is down the stairs before he knows it. The body leading.
A banister of hours beneath his hands. Habit has no need of light in halls –
above, below – the width of oriental runners. Their import worn – ravelled
by the circuit he’s made of every surface. Each room, a perimeter of breath.

Blur of tartan over the newel post, rakish skid, and he’s where I wait:
Parlour, window-starting bright – glazed trees and beyond a band
of violet clouds girdling the horizon – stars paling on a victor’s belt.

All this he sees, ignores,
the spinning boy, my brother,
for whom the day’s a stadium.

The granary – I need you to see this – an amphitheatre of yellow chaffy light.
The bins of grain are up the wooden stairs; the crusher’s chute, the only thing below.
Where wagons wait, or will, when day is fully come. Bran or middlings,
depending on the setting of the gears. Grinding days, all but Sunday.
A wall calendar for figuring, tacked on a two-by-four. The planets in their courses.
It’s here, he explains the dividend of seconds; sometimes, the escapement of a watch.
Too young to read, I’d read its face a hundred times, and his – its fractional fury every dawn.
Lapsed time, he says, equates to distance: start to finish. Flight of thought between.
He’s got his helmet hat on, the ear flaps tied behind like usual.
Its leather cracked with time.

A declination, I think, is what I’d name it now, that interval from there to here.

For some, the poem’s a timepiece, a repeater watch. The one who watches
hauls out of harm’s way a Sunday boy who hadn’t breath for common days.

[Previously published in Malahat Review.]

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