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Astronomy depends on random conversations
in supermarkets. Ask any stargazer:

there is a need for plain communication.   
Every syllable uttered in the routine vernacular

carries wind chimes of galaxy.   
Still, the memories leap as I step

in line at checkout twelve. Across from me
the magazines speak in glossy whispers.   

Stars airbrushed and suntanned.   
Once the pages ignited childhood dreams.

But now I don’t ask the bright
images to bring me constellations.   

When the cashier says, credit or debit,
his words are  a consolation. So much

we drift in staggers beyond our senses.   
The night sky a silhouette of empty parks.   

It’s a blessing to be asked a manageable question,
to speak the answer without a planet

weighing down the tongue. The stars
watching from above catch remnants

of their sparks in our daily exchanges.   
As scientists, focusing their telescopes,

stand on the shoulders of functional speech
to forge pathways to the unexplained.

Mehnaz Sahibzada was born in Pakistan and raised in Los Angeles. She holds an M.A. in Religious Studies from UC Santa Barbara and is a 2009 PEN USA Emerging Voices Fellow in Poetry. Her short story, "The Alphabet Workbook", appeared in the August 2010 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Her chapbook, Tongue-Tied: A Memoir in Poems, was published in 2012 by Finishing Line Press. Her work has appeared in such publications as Asia WritesThe Rattling Wall, and Pedestal Magazine. An English teacher, she lives in southern California and blogs at www.mehnazsahibzada.blogspot.

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