Poetry: Sing Away, My Sister by Cate McGowan

Art by Mich Robinson

This song of X-rays, coming from a chorus of millions of black holes, fills the entire sky.—“Chorus of Black Holes Sings in X-Rays,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 28 July 2016

Where does all the light go? Sister, is it sucked like matter
into supermassive black holes, pulled

through eclipses & star fields to a doom of darkness, a place
where nothing escapes except X-ray music?

I sit on my back stoop & seethe about you & admire
glamorous constellations where

bodies orbit whorling cores. A trick of the light. The moon
wanes, & a nightingale calls

through a copse at the edge of the pond. At a space-age
distance, I clock the universe’s

massacres, its dark soffits, underhanded sky. Brutality’s
acceptable, even beautiful in the residue

of aftermaths, of orifices dark, obsidian. Those chasms
wrangle yellow dwarves, red

giants, swallow fire after fire, snuff luminescence, until
all event-horizon evidence

disappears, the picked-off galaxies gobbled whole through
mine-shaft darknesses. The world

sings aubades about density, brags about building mass.
The more a black hole takes, the more

it wants. My sister, you ask, what do I know of robberies
& cruelty? Oh, I know.

Planets, nebulae, far-flung quasars. Crystal, silver, china,
gold. Gone. Sister, you blew open

the family safe. You sang as you stole. Your soprano sucked
the energy from rooms,

keened away with off-key phrases, while I, the quiet alto
on the front row, mouthed

harmonies, vibratoed my white dwarf warbles. Apologies
arrive too late now, vowels

on top of vowels, your wavelength on a loop. Your serenades
burst energy

as they burgle, such raucous choruses only observed
/heard through astronomers’

special telescopes. We lose so much to greed.
What a shame these naked

ears of ours, such weak instruments,
can’t be alerted to this

universe’s rowdy chorale, its record
of carnage, a synesthetic

score of astral flashes, clicks & groans, aural
paisleys airborne.

Black-hole bitch, stop
your whining. Stop

your high-low frequencies,
your X-ray croons

vespering, speeding away through
night. Stop.

Cate McGowan is the author of a short story collection, True Places Never Are, winner of the Moon City Short Fiction Award and a novel, These Lowly Objects, forthcoming from Gold Wake Books. Her stories, poems, and essays appear in journals such as Glimmer Train, Crab Orchard Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Phoebe, Shenandoah, Okay Donkey, Atticus Review, and numerous other literary magazines. A Georgia native, creative writing and composition professor, MFA graduate, and current PhD candidate, McGowan serves as an assistant prose poetry and fiction editor at Pithead Chapel. Find out more about Cate at: http://www.catemcgowan.com

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