In translation

November 2008
Materials:  a chain of stars
When he died, his sisters
    (who were not really his sisters)
placed him in the heavens
between the crab
and the goat.

Translating him—
which in geometry implies
that he was moved from place to place unchanged
in shape and size and aspect.

They gave him horse's flanks because he loved to ride
    (in life he walked upon two legs).
By his hooves they set a wreath of violets
askew, as if tossed aside at play.
In his hands they put a hunting bow.

Translating him—
which poets understand as being altered utterly
in shape and sound and shade, with one intent:

the preservation
of meaning.

The Latin name we know him by
    (which never was his name)
is just a word for archer,
which came from a word for arrow,
which came from a phrase that once meant striking keenly—
cradling, at its heart, the verb
to seek.

Centuries later, astrologers still claim
I seek
to be the axiom
which guides the lives
of all those born below him.

He made no song that is remembered,
no poem, play, or prophesy,
did no great deeds,
and very likely never lived at all.

Today he is at best an asterisk:
a footnote
in the margins of someone else's story.

But when he died, his sisters
    (who did not think themselves to be his sisters)
placed him in the heavens
between the world
and the void:

Unmoving mover—
reaching down from the sky
and up from horoscopes and natal charts,

but reborn in fame,

something lost
and something gained.