The Runaway Universe

The astronomers, bearded men
in tweed jackets, blame inflation
for her flight. Stretched thin,
she's little more than emptiness
dimpled by the burden of her children
the stars. Long ago she cradled them
in arms made luminous by bonfires
the color of mother-of-pearl,
sang tin-can lullabies with the radio.

Then some darkness--terror, rage,
maybe lonelines--smothered the flames,
billowed out like a pillar of smoke,
chased her across stagnant lands.
She tried to scrub the stench from her skin
but only wore herself down
to the faint chalk outline of her body.

Stars like fat-bellied babies
squall abandoned and bobbing
in dishwater currents, and the radio
carries the staticky sounds
of distant ocean waves,
wind rubbing itself against a roof,
rain on glass.

The astronomers, their breaths
like fireflies in the cold damp air,
kiss their telescopes goodnight
and go home to wives sodden with sleep.
Above all their heads
the universe flees on milky bare legs,
her dreams scattered like flour footprints
on black marble kitchen floors.