Reflection On the Still Silent Water by Dick Westheimer

Reflection On the Still Silent Water

I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

—Walt Whitman

Noctalgic: Those suffering from “sky grief”
—coined by Aparna Venkatesan and John C. Barentine

We came for luminescence.
The plankton here awaken
late and long after the sun sets
and glint beneath the still

water of Tomales Bay.
Like little galaxies, they spread
as our hands trail over
the side of the kayak, stirring

eddies slight and silent.
Above, the Milky Way, like a shawl
woven of silvered wool, drapes
over the bare shoulder of the sky.

Across to the north, a star falls,
its tail as long as myth
persists for a full
beat of breath.

A thousand thousand lesser lights
scatter, meadow flowers flung
from horizon to horizon,
and mingle with the creatures

beneath: Plankton
meets stars meets plankton
meets stars.

Here, back home, the night
sky is abraded by city
lights—burned as if
by bile fire.

We are crowded with more
hungry deer than stars,
more sooted views
than meadow flowers.

There is no Milky Way
surging from the south, no
goddesses and gods of night
arrayed in their mantles

of pin-prick sparks. But
there is a new scripture,
a prayer for the noctalgic:
Blessed are those who forget,

which I cannot. I am cursed
to have sat quiet in the night,
wrapped in the perfect silence
of stars, remembering.

by Dick Westheimer

Editor’s Note: The lush, quiet imagery that draws the reader into the lovely darkness of night is further illuminated by the contradiction of harsh light in the second part of this poem.


2 responses to “Reflection On the Still Silent Water by Dick Westheimer”

  1. Carol Avatar

    This poem fully captures what we have, what we are, and what we have all but lost. Moving.

  2. Sarah Henry Avatar
    Sarah Henry

    highly orignal work, something different from most poems, says somethng new about the stars.

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