Conductors

     Danika Stegeman Lemay

I’ll probably never see Halley’s Comet unless I saw it in 1986 

and forgot. I follow a streak of fire to the constellations, planets, 

and other features of the heavens. Stars shine by their own light

as they consume themselves. Every day I eat myself while I also

eat the things around me. A star’s interior burns at millions

of degrees. Releasing matter as energy requires constant 

transformation.

 

Native copper excavates as a matrix. An excellent conductor,

copper must be hammered to make it shine. Copper bends easily 

into sacred geometries and reminds me I live on occupied land. 

Copper crystals are rare but possible. The land’s surface and contents 

ought to belong to no one. But we’re nothing if we’re not metal 

collectors. 

 

Listening to Conan O’Brien’s podcast Conan O’Brien Needs 

A Friend, during a quiz segment titled “Big Dick History,” 

I learn that Wilt Chamberlain’s preferred nickname was

the Big Dipper. Face north on any clear night. The Big Dipper’s 

outer stars point to Polaris. We don’t talk about Wilt Chamberlain 

without talking about his big dick history or his basketball statistics. 

On March 2nd, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in 

a single game. The middle star in the Big Dipper’s handle is a 

double star. The companion star is faint. It should matter if some

nights Wilt Chamberlain didn’t sleep. Polaris is a cepheid star,

meaning its magnitude changes, meaning sometimes it shines 

dimly. 

 

“What’s this?” my daughter asks. I say “fluorite.” She says 

“I see fluorite! Do you see fluorite, Mommy?” Fluorite is said

to have healing properties: it absorbs negative energy, cleanses

the aura, and aids in learning. I must teach my 2-year-old the

names of things. I must teach her the anatomical names of her 

own body parts, Jane, my early childhood instructor tells me,

to help protect her from sexual predators. At the time of this

writing, 1 in 5 girls will be sexually abused before their 18th

birthday. I must teach her to protect herself and also teach her

how not to be afraid. Gemstones must be cut on a diamond 

wheel. 

 

Cygnus, or, the swan, is a constellation of summer. It’s 

cross marks where the Milky Way splits into parallel streams. 

Orion is a constellation of winter. We can’t gather inside

because a virus killed my mom and intends to further thin

our admittedly pestilent numbers. We can’t gather outside

because skin freezes at -11℉. Orion is a consolation of 

winter. 

 

My brother likes to begin a sentence with the word “look,” 

particularly when he drinks wine. Look, most transparent gems 

are oxides but some are silica. Look, my birthstone is a garnet, 

which is silica roughly the color of pinot noir. Look, a sommelier 

once told me I had a sophisticated palate because I preferred red wines, 

while my friend--who wasn’t really my friend but more like Regina George 

if Regina George was a brunette with a serious drinking problem 

she ignored--preferred white wines. Look, the rock that makes garnet 

can also be green, and then it’s called demantoid, which sounds rather

sinister. Look, a ruby and a sapphire are identical besides 

their colors. Look, if I can survive the cruelty of other children as a 

food stamped, nearsighted, bucktoothed, overweight girl, I can survive 

a group of adult women who lid their eyes and jut their hips to turn 

away from me. Look, these are some aluminum minerals: Kyanite crystallizes

long and blade-like. Corundum marbles metamorphosed limestone. 

I read corundum as conundrum. Look, I’m not sure where to set this

pain down, so I’ll just leave it right here. Kaolin is essential in ceramics 

and found impure as clay. Look, my eyelids are covered in brille like yours, 

like a reptile’s. Cryolite has a greasy luster. Its splinters fuse in candle

flame. 

 

When two stars are in line, their spectra coincide. I want to be your spectral

double. 

 

Synthetic diamonds were once the stuff of 

dreams. 

 

Our galaxy is swirling like a maelstrom. A synonym for maelstrom 

is vortex. A synonym for vortex is whirlpool. A synonym for whirlpool 

is suckhole. This identification guide illustrates physical and chemical 

properties, origins and structures, and how to collect them in your 

seams. It’s designed for anyone who enjoys diagrams and easy-to-read 

language. The shifting, diffuse glow of an aurora is difficult 

to describe. I stand at the bend of a frozen river while snow particles 

catch and reflect the aurora as it undulates. An aurora is essentially an 

electrical phenomenon, energy caught in a vacuum. That high, the sky 

empties. 

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Danika Stegeman LeMay’s debut collection of poems, Pilot, is available now from Spork Press. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and daughter. Her work has appeared in 32 Poems, Cimarron Review, CutBank Literary Journal, Denver Quarterly, Forklift, OH, Sporklet, and Word for/ Word, among other places. Her website is danikastegemanlemay.com.