The Supper Star

By Anne Shaw


Lay your plate in the grass,
your silver knife, your spoon. Position the fork, tines up
to comb the wind. Place a crystal glass beside the plate
and wrap the stem with quiver grass and sedge.
Then put out your napkin, folded crisp and white. Wait
as evening falls for the star 

to rise. You’ll see it first in the western sky
like the prick of a small, bright pin. Watch
as it burrs to silver. Wait for the hour
of red, for the hard pink crest, for the hour of red
to pass. When the sky is chill and blue
the star will peak. 

Then, it will descend
as if on an unseen string. As it hovers
overhead, you’ll hear its hum.
Now lie flat so the grasses
meet above your head. You must
not scare the super star.
Make no sudden move.
When the earth begins to shake
and the grasses seem to speak, peer out slowly
over the rim of your glass. 

If you see the star reflected
in a single, watery light, lift the glass
as if to drink a toast. Hold it toward the star, raise it
slowly up; steady, till the bowl
surrounds the star. The star is the oldest
thing there is, older than the wind.

Cup it slowly, slowly in the glass.
Then, as it nears the bottom, place the palm of your hand
across the top of the flute. Do not let go.

The star may prick your palm, may fly
to the top of the bowl, may circle
the rim, may burn with heat
or cold. Whatever it does, hold fast.
Now, as you lower the glass,
tip it gently, gently toward your plate. (Be careful. The star will try
to slip back on its string.)
But once touches your plate,
the star will stay. 

Now you may feast on the supper star,
drink its ancient light, taste its passage
over the changeable earth.
Peel away the thin blue rind, the icy husk
of quills. Lift it like a white fruit
to your mouth. The star will taste of hay,
black water, mineral salt.
And it will fill you.
Do not eat it all. 

Spit the hard, dark core of it
into the palm of your hand.
Leave one bitter spoonful of its glow.
These you must fling from your spoon
toward the farthest patch of sky. You’ll hear them sizzle
over the summer grass, watch them fade like fireworks
in reverse. Now, pack up your things:
your knife and fork, your dish.
Lick them clean before the light of dawn.
By morning, you will want
to sleep in your own white bed, the secret
heart in your belly still aglow. 


Then, and afterward, the supper star
is yours. You’ll rise and fall behind it as an ocean
trails its moon. By day, you’ll feel its pulse, hear its treble hum,
sense the incremental shifts of wind.
Night will smell of guava, taste of rain
and stones. And always you will want
to travel through the dark, the road
faint white as it reels toward the hills’ black bulk.
You’ll walk alone all night as nightbirds
trill your fate. At the end of the road,
blank water. No cars pass.

The midnight that you find yourself reckless and alone
swimming naked in the saltblack lake
offer up this final prayer: skin
and tether, sea. Wingspan, attar of roses,
riverwater, gull.  Say each name you covet
into the wicket of trees, watch them rise through leaf tips
toward the star. Only then will it breathe you
out of its lungless eye. It gives you back
your whetted mouth, your gill-slit
and your single breath.
Your gill.
This entry was posted in Poetry. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

About Anne Shaw

Anne Shaw is the author of Undertow (Persea Books), winner of the 2007 Lexi Rudnitsky Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals including New American Writing, Phoebe, Gulf Coast, The Journal, and Subtropics. She teaches creative writing at Franklin Pierce University.


  1. Posted December 2008 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Wow – For the past few months I’ve been writing my first novel (Night Surfing – A Story of Love & Wonder in the Waves of Malibu’) so reading this wonderful poem brought me back to my favorite writing format – the poem – and made me want to start a poem of my own right away. That’s what good writing always does for me. It inspires, it makes me want to read the lines again and again. It makes me look up words I didn’t know existed (attar/lungless), it makes me high from the love of a writer’s words magically woven into this marvelous tapestry for all of us to enjoy. Thank you Anne Shaw for giving me the gift of this amazing poem and for reminding me of why I continue on in this crazy writer’s biz. Mary Kennedy Eastham, Author, ‘The Shadow of a Dog I Can’t Forget’

  2. Brooke Pacy
    Posted January 2009 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Anne Shaw’s poem is hypnotic – I love the quiet, authoritative voice that spins such a wild story.

  3. Xama
    Posted February 2009 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    This is a most wonderful poem. As Emily said: “It blew the top of my head off!” I seldom envy. How I wish to produce something this good. Xama

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