Star Light, Star Bright
by William Michaelian

Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, wish I may, wish I might, wish and wish and wish and wish . . . but though I do, they donít come true, so why bother in the first place? Same old star, same old wishes, same old broken dreams. City lights chase the night, keep new dreams away. Fallen star, stolen car, why not rob a liquor store? All alone, the tunnel and the overpass, the rutted pavement and shattered glass, this is the poem you sing. You are who you are, but you still want proof, so you take her to your room and kill her for killing you for wanting to kill her before she kills you. And then you laugh, and she leaves you bleeding in your glorious mental decay, she a little richer, you a whole lot poorer, and even more bitter, angry, disappointed, lonely, mad, and eager for the night to end. But it doesnít. It refuses to budge. And so you say star light, star bright, wish I may, wish I might, wish and wish and wish and wish . . . until you meet a dead man in an alley with painted garbage in his hand, singing hallelujah, look what I found, and youíre sure itís Van Gogh or some similar tragic figure from your textbook memory come back to beg you not to forget, ever, and he gives you his severed ear for safe-keeping and asks tenderly if you are mad. And you are mad, as the clarity of the moment demonstrates. And you take his ear back with you to your room, only to find your lonely prostitute has returned because she forgot to give you your change. She looks at the ear and says yes, there is no doubt, she would recognize it anywhere. The moths gather at the light, the light gathers on the table, a solitary fly gathers on the ear, the ear gathers on the bloody handkerchief, the handkerchief gathers momentum, while the two of you watch and gather a sad harvest of your own. Not what you meant, not what you wanted, not what you imagined, and yet, all the same, here it is, revealed. Two rudderless ships in a sea of robust filth. A pair of cypresses, withering. The covers of a pageless book in which your minds are inscribed. Barbed wire turned upon itself like angry, foolish nations. Greed, power, futility, despair, two faces in a clouded mirror, four eyes emerging from the wreckage of your loss. And then, a knock on the door, a visit from the friend of a friend of a friend wanting the money someone owes someone else, it doesnít matter who, just wanting, while behind him a cast of a thousand termites assembles in the hall, and the wooden stairs leading to the street crumble beneath their weight, causing your building to shift and shudder, so you send him away before itís too late and he remembers who you are, and who he is, and who she is, and that no one really cares. What else can you do? Life is not a fairy tale. Life is an endless night, far from home. It is merciless and lonely, empty and false, ugly and repetitious, an arena full of lions and losers. And, contrary to what they tell you, it goes on forever, only this is the good part, not the part that comes later, because the part that comes later is impossible to distinguish from the part that comes earlier, which is why they invented painted garbage and talk about it in schools and drawing rooms as if it has meaning. But not you. You know what meaning is. You know, because she is standing right beside you. And then. Suddenly. You notice. The bloody ear. Is. Gone. And the handkerchief. And the table. And the moths. And the light. And the prostitute. And you. Isnít that funny? Itís almost as if it never happened. And there are more stars than before. And so, once again, you say star light, star bright, and you wish and wish and wish and wish . . . for something real, beyond reason.

William Michaelianís newest releases are two poetry collections, Winter Poems and Another Song I Know, published in paperback by Cosmopsis Books in San Francisco. His short stories, poems, and drawings have appeared in many literary magazines and newspapers. His novel,
A Listening Thing, is published here in its first complete online edition. For information on Michaelianís other books and links to this siteís other sections, please go to the Main Page or visit Flippantly Answered Questions.

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