Camera Obscura: Fragmented from Light-Pollution
-“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” –Oscar Wilde
My neck is bent, and I look directly up from the car’s passenger seat,
The sun roof is open and acts as a camera frame that encapsulates the infinite canopy of night sky,
Looking up at the stars, my eyes searching for the constellation of a Muse,
But nothing remains consistent or clear enough to make out patterns.
More mundane, yet proximal, street lights interject, bidding for my attention.
There is a constant layering of image and after-image, my focus racking back and forth.
In addition to the street lamps, trees that hang across the road also penetrate into the show,
Sinews of twisted and gnarled telephone lines haphazardly criss-cross my line of sight.
I become disoriented.
The illusion that is created is as if, during a fire-bombing, I were riding down one of those
Technocratic glass elevators that are on the outside of buildings,
Externalized veins, from where you look out behind protective Plexiglas panes,
When you momentarily forget about your perspective, and falsely think it’s the world moving past you,
As opposed to you moving through the world.
It’s easy to lose track of context while in mobile-industrial-cages.
A chiaroscuro dreamscape, a seizure-inducing carnival of strobing shapes and fleeting pictures,
An orgy of quantum mechanical intersection and spread-eagle diffraction,
A credit-scroll of symbolism.
I think of acid tabs shaped like stars,
I become afraid.
Hesitant to look at the driver of the car,
If, even in jest, I start to associate the stars with her eyes…
Then I’m a real prick.
So I keep my face craned up, and reify a different cliché,
Feeling like the Forever-Overhead tableau is an avenue of escape,
“Star-gazer,” “head in the clouds,” “wish upon it.”
When Jiminy Cricket crooned it was in a time where seeing stars was more egalitarian.
Back when there was substantial dark that could be used to discriminate time and place.
Now society is becoming a macrocosmic city that never sleeps nor unplugs.
It’s not just the Metropolises that blot out the stars, replacing resplendent beauty with the dull-orange
Patina of their modernist binge, but small towns that become nothing more than corporate subsidies.
Giant factories have planted themselves in places in America that could still invoke the settings of Twain,
But now, never shall they meet, for there is no longer East or West.
Other animals go mad, certain plants cannot be triggered to grow, citizens become insomniacs;
And when they want repose in which they can look off and hope to see a better world out there somewhere, They literally cannot.
There are many people that never have and never will see the night’s shining stars.
I become melodramatic.
We so desperately want to forever illuminate the spoils of our own technology, these statues of Ozymandias,
That we block out the reminders of our mortality and past, the things so inextricable linked with culture,
Religion, music, literature, political ideology, war, death, life, cosmology, cosmetics, striving and strife.
We fight light with light, and we have little to idealize when we want to separate wrong from right.
The multitude rhythms of life are put into disarray, replaced by the fluorescent hum of decay.
Even when you do see stars, you never see as many as you could, you lose depth and texture.
I become stoic.
I bring my focus back to the stars I am driven under.
They used to be navigational, a cosmic matrix to orient you to where you were.
It even helped certain dreamers figure out who they were.
We’ve replaced that antiquated Global Positioning System.
They’re tricksters however, and are seldom where they seem,
Their light is bent by the gravitational pull of certain objects,
A veritable abyss of smoke and mirrors.
Stars are not stagnant objects frozen in a fixed sky,
They are dynamic, they are elusive, and somehow they feel eternally ephemeral.
You are seldom engaging with the star itself as object, but rather take witness to
The Vagaries of its travel.
The aftermath of their extinguishment echoes in waves.
I wish someone would point out dead stars to me;
If they flicker it is a S.O.S. Morseing received too late and by someone who is not aware of the code.
A distant mirage,
I become ambivalent.
“Reach for the stars?” Madness. You’d disintegrate.
Your ship couldn’t even get close enough without everything going to hell,
And if you waste your time trying to reach them while still on terra firma,
Your aspirations will lead to nothing more than a sprained arm.
I never once think of reaching my hand out through the top of the car.
Redemption is not found in the stars, but on the ground, through the dirt.
The car ride is coming to a close, and as it slows for a turn I get an
Unobstructed view of the sky and the stars strike me in a different light.
These are Nietzschean stars, arising from a godless universe.
These are not the stars of poetry. These are stars that, in and of themselves, are meaningless.
Created, self-sustained, and then burned out; the epicenters for dead worlds and satellites.
Our short lives and attention spans make us mournful.
We’re just projecting onto the projected,
Why do we obsess over the stars?
Idolatry, worship, incomprehension, terror, song, and myth.
It’s even at the point where some people think that stars are so conceptually ubiquitous and hackneyed,
That you can’t even write poems about them anymore.
My moment of still movement in the car tells me otherwise.
Revisit, disestablish, rebuild, or maybe even take those saccharine metaphors and pastiche imagery and...
Give it a chance, “Poetry in a destitute time.”
When we address the stars, it’s like any other religious observance:
Yes, maybe we’re waxing to dead air,
Yes, maybe we’re asking for help from something that doesn’t care.
Like Rilke wailing to the angels, the stars cannot provide us transcendence,
But rather remind us, in their silence, of our own impermanence.
Even if it’s just a flaming ball of gas and it’s probably dead and its existence is as contingent and absurd as the path that brought you to that car to watch the stars glitter through an urban infrastructural labyrinth
located near a mausoleum where a small part of you died and another part was born, even if a star is just a star and you’ve wasted your words on a unoriginal conceit of the imaginary, even if you have to parse your lines with the dead letters of dead men who forgot that the sky isn’t the only tapestry of beauty we can get lost in; that it melds with the vistas of the earth and even of the most soul-crushing Wastelands of cities, and that is also forges a relationship with the tapestry of our inner being, a concept that sounds so new-agey and unsubstantial that you want to ignore its existence but you can’t; even considering that when you look up at the stars you’re actually seeing what you want to see, trying to read your fates, hopes, triumphs, losses, fears and insecurities in a pointillist pantomime; even if your very best friend or closest family member gets nothing from the sky but a signifier of whether they should be asleep or not, but it’s okay: that even with all that and more considered, there is nothing that can ever take away from what you felt and how you feel.
You realize that to Hope and Dream and Desire for something a bit grander, to abstract and dissect and parrot well-trodden figures of speech, and to let yourself express yourself no matter how vulnerable it may make you; you realize that these qualities work for you. And that maybe dreamers have overused star poesis for a reason: these poets and writers harped on stars and their pluripotent meaning, as well as they have always harped about love, so it seems apparent that stars and love mirror each other in their structures, themes, and lived-experience-engagement. Cynical detachment and hyperbolic praise. Disoriented, afraid, stoic, and ambivalent. But there’s also clarity, excitement enthusiasm, and resolution.
I become clean.
When I was younger I thought that all stars were yellow and had five points.
They made it seem like the Sun was something special.
Back to the car as it starts to stop, seeing a Grain of Sand in the universe, tired of reflection and over-analysis.
Tears start to form in the periphery of my eyes.
I let myself think it’s because of the visual strain and forgetting to blink.
I know better.