So Near Yet So Far

By Angie Estes

Featured Art: The Holy Family with the infant Saint John by Valerio Castello

At the edge of the apparent
        disk of a celestial body, known

as its limb, is the border
        between light and dark, there

and not. First a gradual dimming,
        then small crescent shapes appear

on the ground under trees as
        the temperature sharply drops

and birds become quiet, the stars,
        visible: when the sun and moon

come face to face, small beads
        of sunlight shine through the valleys

on the limb of the moon
        in the instant before or after

a total eclipse, and the moon
        wears a row of lucid points,

like a string of bright
        beads around its neck but quickly

takes them off like the necklace
        of pearls my father bought my mother

for their forty-fifth wedding
        anniversary, which she made him

take back. Ninety-nine percent
        of the universe is neither solid,

liquid, nor gas but a fourth
        state of matter, electrically charged

gas—plasma, stuff
        of lightning, flame, and stars—

and when air changes
        into plasma from gas, lightning

makes a single jagged path
        between sky and ground, a blueprint

for veins and their traffic
        of blood. In autumn, maples

thrust down their red
        leaves like rockets lifting from

the earth. Before my father
        left the world, his blood looped out

in tubes, orbiting his body
        the way the hem of Rita Hayworth’s

black dress in You’ll Never
        Get Rich circles her legs as they

keep time with a pair of black
        tuxedoed slacks from a parallel universe

across a beach so bright it has turned
        to glass. Fred Astaire sings You’re so near

and yet so far, and they spin
        as they dance their way offstage, lifting

and touching opposite arms overhead
        like the arcs of skies that arrive and go away

while faces beneath them, like moons, remain.

Angie Estes is the author of six books of poems, most recently Parole (Oberlin College Press). Her previous book, Enchantée, won the 2015 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize, and Tryst was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize.

Originally appeared in NOR 4

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