Curtis Hayes: “Paradox”

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Paradox

The brilliance of the night sky
remains mostly hidden
over Los Angeles
with only the brightest stars
able to punch through the haze.
In the City of the Angels,
the dazzle of the cosmos
can only be seen
from the desert.

We were camping
deep in the Mojave,
the Milky Way above
glistening
more beautiful
than a thousand
cities of man.

We had pitched a tent
and a campfire, circled by stones
crackled and popped.
The October air was still warm
and we would instead
sleep outside,
the bed of my pickup
softened by army blankets
and unzipped sleeping bags.

We passed a bottle
looking out at the silent llano.
A shepherd rested next to her,
tired from the heat of the day.
Shooting stars crossed the sky,
so many that we stopped
calling them out.
She asked me if I thought
there were others out there
looking back at us.
I think there must be
I said quietly.
Do you think we’ll ever be able
To travel out there
And see?

I pictured miles of gravel roads
scattered houses peeling in the sun
rusted chain-link
dusty kids on dirt bikes
and the flags
that decorated the bumpers
of broken-down vehicles.
I thought about the Fermi Paradox
which is astronomer talk
for the theory that
any civilization
with the machines
needed to cross the expanse
would have burned itself out
before it could ever make the
final leap.

Her hair, golden in the firelight.
Stroking the dog
waiting for an answer.
The fire popped twice
sounding like the cap guns
I shot as a kid
and my voice
softly
Why would we want to be
anywhere
but right here.

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About the Author: Curtis Hayes has worked as a grip, gaffer, and set builder in TV and film production. He’s been a truck driver, a boat rigger, a print journalist and a screenwriter. 

He is the author of the non-fiction top-ten NYT bestseller, I Am Jesse James, and his first poetry collection, Bottleneck Slide, has recently been published by Vainglory Press.  His work has been featured in numerous anthologies and small press journals.

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Utah Sunset” (2021)

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