Size / / /

His eyeball smokes a little

As the focused light of distant suns streaks through

The lenses and mirrors.

He has learned to compensate

By switching sides every minute

Blinking ash-motes like tears

And if visitors spy the little nebulosity

Attending the vampire astronomer

They think it a trick of mountain chill

And gaslamps.

His assistants know better,

They who surrender credit

On scientific papers,

More precious than blood.

(Nineteen asteroids bear his name,

Twelve nebulae, and a comet.)

They endure. For he is methodical,

Oblivious to cold and tedium, tireless

As any dream engine of Lovelace and Babbage

With eyes never fooled by Martian canals.

They endure, and trade blood and fame

For the secrets of the universe

And guard his sleep in the coffin amid

The almanacs.

But they have whispered dark worries

He never voices in journals.

Why does the universe lurch

With the freight of mass unseen?

He fears he knows the answer

But speaks not of dark matter.

Best mortals never contemplate

What monstrous solar systems

Should lurk invisible to a telescope's lenses—

And mirrors.

He keeps discoveries also from his kin,

Ever since the student made him

Flap terrified around the dome

By unveiling her handmade telescope

Blazing to his gaze like a crucifix.

He knows now in the proper hands

Both are implements of the Light

That circumscribes his movements,

Commands his career and sears

His eyes.

And he suspects it is not truly

Distance and the inverse-square law

That protects him from the

Glare of distant spheres, but a veil

Of perception. And were he to

Open his mind's eyes, see beyond

Gaslamps and almanacs and mirrors

He might behold a background radiation

Of Love—of which he is the dark reflection—

And in that moment burn, one with the suns.

But for now he peers and scribbles

And charts the dark frontiers

Anticipating no hero's reward

No constellation named for the vampire slain by

The stars.

Chris Willrich ( lives in Silicon Valley where he has the strange and wonderful job of children's librarian. His most recent fiction was "The Lions of Karthagar," in Black Gate 15. You can find him irregularly on his blog at Goblins in the Library, or read his work in Bound for Evil: Curious Tales of Books Gone Bad and The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies Online Magazine, Year One.
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