We’re Thinking of the Black Hole at the Center of the Galaxy

By David O’Connell

Featured Art: Children at Play by Jean-Francis Auburtin

leaning back in our lawn chairs, the August constellations
crowded by a crush of stars, the Milky Way in soft focus
like a glamour shot. A couple and a couple at the end of the day
watching our kids zip sparklers back and forth across the lawn
like satellites or meteors. It’d been a story in the paper,
evidence of a supermassive black hole, and so we throw it back
like tequila shots and wade past our depth—me, deflecting
to Kubrick’s Star Gate sequence, those long light smears
on Bowman’s helmet, Julie, pulling both cords of her sweatshirt
taut, saying our bodies would be stretched to angel hair
if we were yanked into that hole. Then Janet’s telling us
how she imagines this supermassive black hole is like the hole
at the end of a vacuum cleaner. And right now—Saturday evening,
our kids growing restless, minutes from boredom, then, maybe,
those nudging arguments of who found who, who was safe,
and for us, at least, the hour’s drive home, I-95 congested
by the night-shift roadwork just beginning, Julie and I
talking quietly in front, reviewing the evening, overwhelmed
by the obvious, how we’ve all changed, how we won’t ever
be as young as we were, our daughter, grass-stained,
her hair wild with static, slouching down in the backseat
pretending to sleep as she listens in just as I did at seven,
those long drives to Maine, picking up things half-understood
in the language of grownups—this black hole, says Janet,
is Hoovering up stars and planets like so many pretzel crumbs
ground into the shag. We’re full. Everything off the grill
is hitting the spot. And Mark, back to Kubrick’s Star Child,
is leaning in to share his fanboy theories of what it all means,
though I’m not listening, not really, because it seems right,
that vacuum, because I, too, have plucked stray fuzz clinging
half in, half out of the attachment’s rim—and yes, this is how
it feels, year-by-year, to be drawn to the irresistible thing.

David O’Connell’s work has appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Copper Nickel, Sugar House, and North American Review, among other journals. His first full-length collection, Our Best Defense, is forthcoming in 2021 from Červená Barva Press. More of his work can be found at davidoconnellpoet.com.

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