Julie Baber’s Not Quite Stars

Not Quite Stars - Julie Baber
Listen to Julie Baber read this poem.


And what songs there are that must call us all—
not the songs of the Sirens’ mouths,
those metal-tongued demon mouths of the narrow straight,
the seaward fall—
but of more tuneless things,
as the startled nest-bare rustle of a sparrow’s wings,
that rushing which they sing to me of late,
or even of our heart beating,
glorious tones that sing in our sleep our tales
of each divine meeting, like nightingales,
throbbing deep, resounding in the throat—
or the whisper as we refold the pages
our mothers wrote,
and their feet proceeding ours with a stumble or two
on these uncurtained stages.

And the time will come, as it has done and passed,
where the songs our eyes sing to one another
must turn their kissing mouths to other things,
when we must with fingertips forget each stranger’s
skin-touch, and such soft pangs—
for it is no victory to last.
It is no victory to stand bull-stubborn in the path,
solidly refusing that bend, that parting of mouths,
that releasing of hands.
It is no victory to refuse our promised lands.

Even as the gloaming begins to spark,
begins to hover, to clear its throat—our messenger of the dark—
odd little flames we are to dot that horizon-line
even as it begins to drip, tar-black,
even as some air hums that distant cliffside lullaby back.
We flit our tiny battles, our storming, tiny spars,
free to choose our night-path now,
free with delicate wings.
We who are not yet ashes, and not quite stars,
we, lighting bug singers, we fireflies sing.
And as if brushed from a young child’s hand,
released from her tiny eye,
we ignite, we leap—pinpoint beacons we command—
and into the night we fly.


Julie Baber graduated with a BA in English Language and Literature and Theatre from Smith College. At Smith, she was awarded the Ruth Forbes Eliot Poetry Prize and studied poetry writing under poet Jack Gilbert. Also at Smith, she was awarded the opportunity to have dinner with Gwendolyn Brooks, and she ended up with most of her dinner in her lap out of sheer nervousness. She lives in New York City and is currently obsessed with whiskey ice cream and photo booths.

“Not Quite Stars” appeared in the second print issue of apt. Purchase your copy here.

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