Apollo ambles through the observatory
unheeded. He tilts a telescope, gazes,
lets it glow in the ambient light
of his fingertips before recoiling,
blinded by the sunrise. You will not find this
in myth books. He made sure of it.
This is the moment he shakes
free, cuts the new fires from his toes,
alights into the shade unburdened & redacted.
The gloxinia buds bend to his muted light still.
Come dawn, when the astronomer is dozing,
Apollo hurries, lapping at the dew
that evaporates with a glance, chasing owls and
bats that flap away beyond his reach.
Apollo sometimes steals the stellarium key,
prays that the metal nubs will not
dissolve in his palm. Sometimes, he prays
that his tanned ankles might lose their luster.
They won’t. Instead, he does what he can
to feel nocturnal leaves his fingerprints
on penciled constellations, sneaks armfuls
of astrolabes back through the morning
to his chariot. Holds Cassiopeia to sunlight for study
like a two-headed cat or an ancient coin.
As he thumbs through, diagrams slice his hands
open and red as a sunburn. Soon, the mortals will rise.
Soon, the God of the Light must return to his
new duties burying Helios, lending
brightness to each note of poetry, beaming
sweat across the land’s epidermis,
all the while yearning for night. Until then,
he will rattle the astrolabes for their clarion call.
Pace, relentless, towards the distant dim.
Revel in the paper stars on his knees.
About the AuthorMichelle Chen is a sixteen-year old poet, writer, and artist who lives for paper mail, warm zephyrs, and fried noodles, and who takes inspiration for her writing from the events that occur in and around her home, New York City, though her birthplace is Singapore and she hopes to return and visit someday. She is the first-prize winner of the 2015 Knopf Poetry prize and the Norm Strung Youth Writing Competition, the recipient of The Critical Junior Poet's Award, and has performed at Lincoln Center. Her work has been honored both regionally and nationally in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, been shortlisted for the erbacce-prize for poetry, and has appeared in the Sharkpack Poetry Review, The Critical Pass Review, Across the Margin, Transcendence, Alexandria Quarterly, and Ember.