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Listening to the radio, I heard

that the star Regulus is 79 light years

from the Earth.  And I thought,

Mom died when she was 79 years old.

Which means

that the light that left Regulus at her birth

arrived here

at her death, that the light of her birth

was in some way also

the light of her death.


The light of her birth and death was winging

cross the vast empty coldness at nearly six trillion miles a year

while she tried to ride a cow on an Iowa farm

and broke her nose; as she played high school basketball

with the court divided into three sections

with two guards, two centers, and two forwards on each team

restricted to their respective sections because girls

weren’t supposed to run too much; as she survived

scarlet fever and made her way through nursing school;

as she married and bore twins, Jane and James, who were so premature

only the birthlight of the sun reached them

before they died.  And on the light of Regulus came

while she raised six other children, returned to work as a nurse when

times got hard, lost another son, gained grandchildren,

and tended her husband as he ailed and died.


All in all

a good life she would have said, but not a good

or an easy death, about which she could say nothing.  The light

neared, and her brain began to bleed because of her blood-thinner.

A surgeon told us he could save her life, and he did

in as much as he staved off her death.  But he didn’t save

her, her mind, her radiant self.  He took too much brain

in return for so little life.  He took the names of her children

and left bewilderment and incapacity.  My dosage, she told me,

they must change my dosage.  Explanation was no use.

Finally she refused food, water—her dignity, her determination

were still there, deep down.  And blessedly, the light arrived.

The thread was cut.  Jesus gathered her home.


You pick the metaphor or metaphysical mechanism

you prefer.  (Her pick was God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,

but as a devout Catholic she had no doubt prepared herself

for a purgatorial stint before she could enter into

the Presence itself.)

And maybe I shouldn’t add my fanciful flight

to all the tropes and tales our race has already amassed

against death.  But I have to wonder if at this moment

streaming hither

there isn’t the light of one particular star

and whether there isn’t

a certain wave

in that unwavering stream

that when it crests

and breaks against this planet

will mark the end of my journey too,

equal in time though not in distance.



[Editor’s Note: Publication of this poem was made possible by a gift from Kate Strong Stadt during our annual Kickstarter.]


Editors: Poetry Department

Copy Editors: Copy Editing Department

Accessibility: Accessibility Editors

Jim Racobs is retired and fortunate to live with his wife Yukiko in the high desert of the western US. He is appreciating more and more the fabled Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times.”
Current Issue
30 Jan 2023

In January 2022, the reviews department at Strange Horizons, led at the time by Maureen Kincaid Speller, published our first special issue with a focus on SF criticism. We were incredibly proud of this issue, and heartened by how many people seemed to feel, with us, that criticism of the kind we publish was important; that it was creative, transformative, worthwhile. We’d been editing the reviews section for a few years at this point, and the process of putting together this special, and the reception it got, felt like a kind of renewal—a reminder of why we cared so much.
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