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Yoni Hammer-Kossoy

Self Portrait with Fainting Star

Rumors of Betelgeuse’s impending death have been greatly exaggerated. The red supergiant star        appears to be in no danger of imminently exploding, even though a recent, dramatic dip in brightness hinted that it could be on its last legs. The latest observations reveal instead that the star is starting to regain its former light. –

National Geographic Online, February 26, 2020

I like that your name is pronounced beetle juice like the movie 

from my youth; that I know how to find you, 

high in the winter night where Orion hunts the giant bull; 

that even now I can taste the cold that crackled in my throat 

when I dragged a birthday telescope outside 

and aimed it beyond the city glare. I like that astronomers 

called this recent downturn a fainting as if stars swoon and have 

bad days. I like that they couldn’t explain why, and now that it stopped, 

now that you have begun to right yourself from whatever dust 

or cosmic cycle worried your brow, I like that many are disappointed 

nothing else is going to happen soon. I like that you,

like most giants, come complete with dramatic end; 

that it’s cataclysmic, viewed safely from 650 light years away. 

And when you finally blow, next month or in a hundred thousand years, 

I like that you will light up the sky brighter than the moon

and stay that way for weeks, blurting out a secret

of what happened centuries ago.

Still Life with Unrolled Awning

The awning like my heart is cheerful with its green and white stripes. A bowl of dusty grapes has been cleared leaving a laptop and two teacups distanced on the tablecloth. We are too late for whatever happened, too early for what happens next. A cicada rubs its eyes and peonies wait in their pots. Even accomplished painters find this afternoon light difficult to capture. The awning fidgets in the breeze, tugging at bolts. I hope someone remembers to roll it in before bedtime. Some nights the wind settles but when it barrels through from far away the whole building lifts from its foundation, sailing off in a shower of broken pipes and stone.    

Seasquill in the Garden

All year the seasquill lay in the ground

between rose bushes and a stone wall

exactly where the kids planted it

with great fanfare, an onion-sized bulb

cradled in both hands, famous for its bulk

and end of summer bloom. All year

it lay there like a whale's heart

beating two or three times a minute

while the world above spun

from current events to home remodeling,

despots and interior designers united in desire

to tear down and rebuild in their own image.

All year it lay in the dark, silent enough

to be forgotten, and no one can say 

whether it developed a taste for tea with lemon

or 19th century novels or if the roses

minded having such a quiet neighbor.

And no one said a word when its stem didn't grow

and its flowers didn’t unfurl

to the plum wind of shortening days.

All year it lay there, not dead but dormant,

gathering for a leap into light.

Yoni Hammer-Kossoy’s work has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, and has recently appeared in the Ilanot Review, Lily Poetry Review, Juniper Poetry, and River Heron Review. Originally from Brooklyn, NY, Yoni now lives in Israel with his family.

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