The Golden Shovel

Betsy Jones

In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
–“When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer,” Walt Whitman (1867)

In the cloudless dusk
the International Space Station appears. A
mystical and perspicuous event. Eyes
moist with anticipation and allergies and awe. A deep inhale of
night-air, cells fill with oxygen, the act of respiration both a magical act
and a biological fact.
From a back porch in Nowhere, Georgia
time expands, and I occupy the same space as astronauts in orbit, connecting
to thousands of eyes that trace the same arch from southwest to northeast.
Time contracts as the twinkling dot moves swiftly and smoothly over my roof line. As I
look’d up through the perfect space between the oaks and the pines,
up beyond the bats that pirouette and swoop, I follow the satellite until it disappears
in the east, behind the Berhl’s tennis court. I hold my breath, trying to hold this
perfect moment for a few more seconds. The
silence broken by the shouts and yelps from the Pickleball game. A final glance
at the yard as the darkness descends,
the blue gone from the sky. The evening’s first
stars appear, the sentinels of explorers, sailors, and poets alike.

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