The Dust of Stars (Andrew Bertaina)

This morning, I am trying to order my feelings, but they keep frolicking round like dust motes exposed by sunlight coming in through the window. The motes tumble, pell mell, subject to invisible breezes, dancing like circus fleas, a jumble of kittenish fever.

Such are my feelings, which, like dust are silly and free, subject to the lines of a poem, index fingers grazing, a well-crafted e-mail, an afternoon coffee date, the sidewalks glittering and green hostas holding troughs of water in their cupped leaves. It is dangerous to be so disordered, floating through windows or being carried away by a conversation about childhood.

Dust motes, I remind myself, are sometimes orderly. They take shape like children forming a circle at a teacher’s sudden voice, bits of silica at a square dance, linking with hydrogen and helium to form a nebula, pin wheeling in the void of space.  From there, they once called out to purples suns and radiant moons, implored the stars to join them in the dance. And now, blowing through my open window, mid-Autumn, these motes are still dreaming of the fire they’d once been.

I too travel when I am unsettled. I went to Spain after the separation, wandered the serpentine streets of Barcelona and danced evenings in smoke filled rooms, where bodies writhed like snakes. In communal rooms, where people floated in and out, from city to city, country to country, I sat on a bench made of oak and talked to strangers deputized as friends about where we’d travel next, the hikes we’d take, the castles from the Nasrid Dynasty we’d visit. At night, four of us walked the streets together, buying beers, talking of wives we had, wanted, or had lost. We circled a speakeasy for an hour, knocking on the door three times before they let us in. Finally, we entered, drank and laughed, traipsed home at five, vaguely drunk, vaguely content, the streets white lit after the rain, our conversation piercing thickets of silence grown wild in the early morning.

And now, back from Spain, sipping coffee and trying to make sense of the people I know and love—wife, children, dearest friends—I feel the tug of cosmic dust within me. It refuses coherence, this dust that has seen the white hot death of stars. It pulls me from the couch, starting with the strands of my hair, the bridge of my nose, the skin at the back of my neck, the slats between my ribs, suddenly, I am aloft.  I sail out the window above the tops of oaks, red maples, rhododendron and hydrangea, fields of buttercups, dogwood and brown squares of grass, lifting into a grey band of sky, in search of some new warmth, some better home.  


Andrew is rich in history.