The thicketed stars struck up
conversations with distance,
their brief, hot scratches curved
against the sky’s dome.
Zipped into a sleeping bag,
high on a bluff above the river,
I turned my face toward
this one direction of wonder.
Friction suddenly visible,
life burned itself out in streaking arcs
far above my eyes, yet I couldn’t
keep from turning away.
Off to one side,
rising from the opposite bluff,
the huge moon: fat crescent.
Succulent cream of a moon,
big as a wide, wild
animal yawn held open
on the horizon. Risen, still rising,
and I, who’d never before wanted
to sleep in the open, chose to stay.
Outside my familiar landscape
of wallpaper, curtains, doors,
I could hear the coyotes
throw their great circle of cries
up into the air, two owls criss and cross
their voices through trees;
I could turn from moon to stars
to moon, watch them to sleep,
rouse to see them again, and go again
back to sleep in that wide outside;
then wake in morning to find
the sleeping bag, my face, hands
wet and shining with what, at dawning,
fell to the ground.
— Paulann Petersen