Constellations

Neil Rollinson

Beyond the house, where the woods

dwindle to a few stray trees, my father

walks on the lake with a hammer.

 

He's never seen so many stars,

and wonders why

with all that light in the sky

 

it doesn't cast a single shadow.

He takes a few blows at the ice, and drops

a sackful of bricks

 

and kittens into the hole, listens

a moment to the stillness of deep winter,

the hugeness of the sky, the bubbles of warm

 

oxygen breaking under his feet,

like the fizz in a lemonade; the creaking

of ice as it settles itself.

 

His father's at home, coaxing voices

out of a crystal set, a concert from London.

Ghosts in a stone.

 

My father doesn't like that, he prefers

the magic of landscapes, of icicles

growing like fangs from the gutters of houses,

 

the map of the constellations. He turns on the bank

and looks at the sky. Orion rising over Bradford,

Cassiopeia's bold W, asking Who, What, When

and Why? And down in the lake, the sudden

star-burst of four kittens under a lid of ice,

heading to the four corners of nowhere.