Kings and Queens in Collected Asterisms (Suite)
“A wound gives off its own light
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
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
Kings and Queens Leaving Footprints
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
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.
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.