So Near Yet So Far

By Angie Estes

Featured Image: 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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