Perseids


It is late summer. August leaves and grasses are tinged
with the overcooked brown of the season’s heat.

In thick underbrush, copperheads prowl, fattening
themselves on mice and lizards for the coming hibernation.

The glinting in the snakes’ eyes, as they slither
through meadows in the night, through Perseus’ hands,
 
are St. Lawrence’s tears, the pain of the sky breaking
in glimmering shards of light, skidding on a velvet canopy.
 
We lie on warm boulder in the James River, not feeling
the speed of our passage through Swift-Tuttle’s wake,
 
only aware of the texture of stones sparking above
and beneath us, our smooth skins, like the serpents’,
 
taking our fill of each other now, that will sustain us
through the chill of the Geminids—meteors that will reflect
 
their light off snow and our hoary heads when we can no longer
wade in the river to sleep on the warm breast of earth.
 
— Ann Thornfield-Long
 
 
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Author’s Note: The constellation, Perseus, where the radiant of the Perseids originates, has the mythological figure holding the severed head of Medusa whose hair is made of long writhing snakes.
 
Ann Thornfield-Long, a co-author of Tennessee Women of Vision and Courage (edited by Crawford and Smiley, 2013), has poetry appearing in Artemis Journal, Riddled with Arrows, Silver Blade, Abyss & Apex, The Tennessee Magazine, Wordgathering, Liquid Imagination and other publications. She won the Patricia Boatner Fiction Award (Tennessee Mountain Writers, 2017) for her novel excerpt “The Crying Room” and was a finalist for her fiction in the 2017 Chattanooga Writers’ Guild Spring Contest. She was nominated for the Pushcart and Rhysling awards, and awarded a 2017 Weymouth residency. She edited and published a weekly newspaper for six years. She’s a retired nurse and medical first responder.
 
Editor’s Note: Raining Perseids* is combined with silhouette of a woman watching over water.
 
*Astronomy Picture of the Day, Aug 12, 2007, Credit & Copyright: Fred Bruenjes: “Tonight is a good night to see meteors. Comet dust will rain down on planet Earth, streaking through dark skies in the annual Perseid meteor shower. While enjoying the anticipated space weather, astronomer Fred Bruenjes recorded a series of many 30 second long exposures spanning about six hours on the night of 2004 August 11/12 using a wide angle lens. Combining those frames, which captured meteor flashes, he produced this dramatic view of the Perseids of summer. Although the comet dust particles are traveling parallel to each other, the resulting shower meteors clearly seem to radiate from a single point on the sky in the eponymous constellation Perseus. The radiant effect is due to perspective, as the parallel tracks appear to converge at a distance. Bruenjes notes that there are 51 Perseid meteors in the composite image, including one seen nearly head-on. This year, the Perseids Meteor Shower is expected to peak in the moonless early morning hours of August 12.

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