Kings and Queens in Collected Asterisms (Suite)

     Catharine Batsios

                “A wound gives off its own light

                 surgeons say.”

                                  --Anne Carson

 

Starmap: Allentown, PA

 

At the Starlite Diner—coordinates 233 Pennsylvania 100—John is

the King of Cups, a constellation appearing 

in the tabletop horizon at late dawn 

after an ice storm. If you 

arc between two spots of light 

which are a glint on the gold of his

wire frame glasses,

you have found the pointer stars.

You may miss them

 

if you don’t drink enough coffee, if you doze on cold vinyl waiting

for your pancakes to arrive, or go out

to pace the gravel with your third cigarette.

If you aren’t careful or still, glare from the 6:17 a.m. sun

will obscure the light cluster called Butter Knife

poised over a smattering of hot sauce on egg. 

 

John’s meticulous dissection 

is how we explain the perfectly quadrilateral sections 

of the Broccoli and Swiss Omelette,

a nebula just below his elbow.

 

Also visible, the blue planet which makes up 

his right iris—it gazes in the direction of the Queen of Cups,

rising eventually in the next months, stretching her arms against

the backdrop

of the eastern sky.

 

 

Inquiry into Asterisms (1)

 

 

It is only through association that we mention the King of Swords.

 

Picture a man who balances stars on an absinthe spoon to cut bitter

wormwood, who then thinks he is elevated,

hallucinates that he is made of light,

 

how the mind can perform contradiction, fool itself into believing

that above and below can feel the same. 

 

 

******

 

Introduction to the King of Swords/An Illusion Involving

Pieces like the Moon as the Buttons on a Three-Piece Suit

 

Being a scientist, you found a way to hold a constellation

between your thumb and forefinger, keep it as the moving gears

of the watch in your vest.

 

Because she saw a horn-rimmed moon in the buttons of your

waistcoat, the Queen thought she was still in the orrery of night

even when you touched her under lamplight in the street, or when

she stood on the sill, back arching, arms behind her, 

fulcrum of your palm.

 

Not being from a place this far north, you’ve kneaded your hands

to disguise how cold they were—the Queen, your object, was

narcissistic to think that you were her overcoat

in early spring frost,

that you were anything but a blade across her shoulders, 

still chilled from winter,

King of Swords. King of nothing more

than precision, but king of the affectation supine

in her, Queen of Cups. Queen of bourbon nights, or

 

the shapes of her asterisms,

points of interest, intersection, points along the spine,

the vertebrae you’ve found to render her motionless,

to take her out, just to check the time.

 

 

Inquiry into Asterisms (2)

 

Our protagonist, the King of Cups, is patient, has learned equally 

the head and the heart, doesn’t presume to hold an orrery in his

palm—insists that he is a piece of it, and therefore cannot contain

the whole outside of itself.

 

He is also the only fixed grouping 

in the Royal Constellation Cluster. Quite literally, the

Queen makes a path around him

taking in every perspective

over time.

 

 

******

 

 

Kings and Queens Leaving Footprints

 

I.

The Queen of Cups is a constellation showing the end of winter,

I am visible only once I take off my shoes,

once I go into the new grass and pull petals from

the scarlet beebalms, throw them toward the night sky 

to make a portrait;

 

we leave footprints, not like dancers or orienteers, but light-footed 

like glass on a string, or waiting 

between reflection 

and constellation.

 

II.

I wish his socks would not leave footprints on the wall

as the King of Swords sits there, reversed, on my couch.

 

He looks at me like a shard of glass tied on a string held to light. 

I look at the things he left for me

tracing a slender heel 

and high arch

walking toward me.

 

The King of Swords places his blade between us 

on the wooden floor, he expects me to 

hold up my skirt,

step lightly on either side.

The barefoot Queen of Cups chooses instead

to let him cut open her feet,

she chooses stop-motion dawn,

trails petals from her wounds as she leaves.

 

 

Final Inquiry into Asterisms

 

Queen beside the King of Cups, queen of bourbon nights, of blue

hours, with petals trailing from her feet across the sky,

queen of the cup with a pinhole, queen of parking lots, of bus stops

with bright moon overhead, queen of grass wet from blood, queen

of stop-motion dawn,

queen of the bottomless cup.

 

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Catharine Batsios is from Flint, MI & currently lives in Detroit where she is a teaching artist serving Detroit youth & the Detroit literary community. She writes a poem about her hometown every time someone makes a blatantly callous, overwroughtly capitalist assumption about who gets access to basic human dignities & who does not. She spends most of her time writing poems & teaching poetry as ownership of radical thought & identity.