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Issue 3.3

Fall 2023

Carrie Nassif


This poem is part of an (as of yet unpublished) micro-chapbook called ancestry of a constellation. It mines the stars in the Sagittarius constellation, the archer—which is both my mother's sign, and one of the two signs my adult child was born on the cusp of—to explore three generations of mother and child in the past, present, and future. I wrote this fragmented mythology to try and contain the stories of why my mother wouldn't want her child, and why my child, whom I want very much, at times didn't want their own lives. Much of the symbolism in this poem is based on facts from contemporary astronomy and, because a half of my father's lineage is Arabic, it was fitting to draw from those ancient stargazers as well who were trying to make sense of their own circumstances in their explanations of the stars and their movements. 

the three stars of the living bow of Sagittarius and her suicidal child

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth

                                                                                                            —Kahlil Gibran


 λ (lambda) sagittarii: Kaus Borealis

the northern tip of the bow-body-self is lit by an orange star    a giant in her final

stages she is topaz cut from a bonfire   from the flesh of the golden apples of fall


she is also known as the keeper of the ostriches but perhaps they meant toddlers

those Arabic astronomers    finders of stars and givers of names and duties    she


guards the nearby clusters of stars who are headed to drink from the river of the

milky way   she keeps watch over the ostrich toddlers who  having drunk their fill


are returning   she looks over them as she looks over the knuckles of her bow-hand

toward a pink cloud of gas and particles    toward a nebula with an hourglass shape


a reminder of our impending mortality    of the birds’ eminent extinction     of hers

of her potential futures:    if she has the abortion    or has the child     or    were she


her own mother:   if she has twins    and one girl dies      or if she never had twins

in the first place   or   if she were her own child:     a chimera      born on the cusp


of the zodiac   the afternoon of the equinox    would they even agree to be

my mercurial androgyling?    this ambidextrous seam?    both sunwise and


widdershins     all extremes if anything?   or would they choose the future  

at all?    

δ (delta) sagittarii: Kaus Media

the middle star where the hand grasps the bow halfway up     is in the present tense   this

vortexing culmination of once’s and if’s collapsing   (with a huff)   into one moment     or


if not a single point   then, into a multiple star system whose primary star is a weak giant

with a furnace in her belly    who burns with the carbonic mass   she siphoned away from


her partner   an evolved   a white star   a hollow husk of a once stellar core

still tightly wound but faint and blinking with the ashen glow of old cinders          


the pair is orbited   eternally by their grown offspring   their three

dim companion stars:   Bittersweet, Chaos and Doubt        

ξ (epsilon) sagittarii: Kaus Australis

at the southern edge of the bow body shines a blue giant binary system rare and

short-lived    she is  brilliant    is opalescent    is perhaps a bit vain about her rings 


the circumstellar disk of dust where her partner and their collective afterbirth

were set aside   shuttered away   being a plain    an ordinary yellow sun  


so like our past: my mother and her November coldness and her diamonds and her

turquoise contacts    and my brown-feathered birdness and my August fire    hiding


in the dusty attic of my twelfth house   with the twin I did or didn’t have    and kill

or that I wished I met but never will and how all that book learning couldn’t undo


the way we were forged upon each other   imprinted duplicates    mother and

daughter and even   my spawn    how we were built from the same   goddamn


flesh   the way we were all such thirsty ostriches

each of us    this whole time   and so poorly kept

Carrie Nassif (she/her) is a queer poet, photographer, psychologist and creativity catalyst/life coach living in Northern New Mexico. Her chapbook, lithopaedion was one of this summer's the Wardobe's Best Dressed and finalist in Yes Yes Books' Vinyl 45 chapbook prize. A full length poetry collection and/or speculative memoir, necessary and sufficient conditions: the vulture girl is forthcoming summer 2024 with Saddle Road Press. Other poetry can be found in Comstock Review, The Gravity of the Thing, Pomona Valley Review and Tupelo Quarterly. More at  http://www.carrienassifphd/author 

Carrie's Book Recommendation

I've been re-reading Forrest Gander's Twice Alive and marveling at the lush language on the surface, of the power in his asymmetrical revisitings of form and content, and the way absence, when placed in the foreground, creates so much positive space around the edges in my mind.

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