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When the Stars Fall by Cathy Ulrich

The stars, when they fall, fall like rain, like broken-wing birds, like falling stars. The sky goes velvet black in their absence. They come jack-tumbling to ground, the stars, with girl faces, looking like our sisters when they put on makeup in front of the bulb-lined mirror, pursing their lips for Tommy boys and Johnny boys and all the Derek boys who won’t look their way.

The stars come out of the sky, lightning-white and beautiful, and the old people stand with umbrellas on their front step and say never seen a storm like this, watching the purpling stars falling to the ground. They say: gonna be a long one, and their umbrellas dot over our neighborhoods like plump blooming mushrooms and their voices chime from underneath like birdsong.

The stars fall into dew-damp grass and dusty brown desert and blacktop highways. They fall with faces like Mae Clarke after James Cagney has hit her in the face with the grapefruit, like Norma Shearer pushed down by Clark Gable, like Anna May Wong just killed Warner Oland, death canceled his debt to me.

The stars are falling; the stars are perfect and beautiful and burning white. They scar into the ground, imprint great-winged birdshapes that we will hunt out under flashlight beam and candle glow, and the places where they landed will be warm, still warm, and we will lay ourselves down among their silhouetted wings and faded light, and look up at the new-black above and think this is the sky now. This is the sky.


Cathy Ulrich's favorite Anna May Wong movie is "The Toll of the Sea." Ulrich's work has been published in various journals, including Gone Lawn, Ghost Parade and Adroit.

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Dave Henson
Dave Henson
Feb 01

Love this.

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