The observable universe by Jen Stein

My hand holds a maple leaf, edges 
pocked where moths have eaten 

holes in. Their powdered wings 
left dust across the leaf. Dew 

wetted the dust, which dried 
into trenches, like sandbags bolstered

across battlefields where bodies have 
lain with bodies. Bodies of boys with muskets 

have prayed in these trenches, 
the moisture puffing from their mouths, 

rising up the trees of cold Virginia autumn. 
The moisture from my mouth mingles 

with albuterol from the mask on my face, 
the trees out my window are withering. I

remember the capitals of the north and south 
during the civil war were less than 

100 miles apart. The moon is 6,786 miles 
in circumference. Half of the water on earth 

is older than the sun itself. 
My breath merges with soldiers’ breath. 

The observable universe is tangible. 
When we twine our body with another body,

we bring starlight in. When we kiss, we taste 
centuries of moisture upon our melded tongues. 

When we bloody our hands with hatred, 
bearing down against another, 

the blood they bleed is the same moisture that 
becomes the milk we feed our babies. 

The universe is the water in and around
one another, the water of breath and birth.

Everything else is signal-to-noise, 
so much noise that we are at risk of drowning.

Jen Stein is a writer, advocate, mother and finder of lost things in Fairfax, Virginia. Her experience as an advocate, with PTSD and fibromyalgia, and with the continuing process of healing and reinvention informs much of her writing. She studied creative writing at George Mason University, and is assistant editor for Rogue Agent Journal. Her work has recently appeared in Cider Press Review, Menacing Hedge, Luna Luna Magazine, and Nonbinary Review, and is featured in a micro-collection in Wood Becomes Bone, a series by ELJ Publications, 2015. 

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