Portrait with Dying Star


By Sarah Johnson

From the Hubble photograph of the Cat's Eye Nebula

First, the light. To describe it I divide the dark
around you with bright layers, beams that blister
sapphire into coral. I know each ring
you bleed exhausts your heat, leaves your core
unable to push back against the gravity
that once kept you together. Before this,
your fever knew no end and let you
fuse oxygen and nitrogen, elements
whose weight you created with ease. Then you sparked
iron, felt its atoms eat your energy,
the marrow which sustained you. Now you fail
to stop forming it, to hold
your heat and gravity. You fight what’s natural:
full release, the deafening
light, how you’ll be captured
in a photo: warm waves, blurred
orange rays. Only you view
the after: a return to the parts
that birthed you, swallowing again and again
the heat and dust you left.


When she isn't writing poems or running a marathon, Sarah is finishing up her MFA degree at American University in Washington, DC. She currently lives in Maryland with her husband and black lab/corgi mix Henry.

"Portrait with Dying Star" is Sarah's first published poem.