The beauty of a star is best admired
Through distillation of the atmosphere,
So purest light may grateful eyes inspire
When it in darkened firmament appears.
Though from a distance it may seem perfection
A star might crush you with its gravity,
Starve you in shadow with its pale reflection,
Or burn you with its light’s intensity.
Scorn not your ideal orbit of the sun
Whose brightness feeds your body, mind, and soul.
Though seasons pass as revolutions run
Its warmth and light your weary heart consoles.
Remember: when regarded from afar
Your sun is someone else’s distant star.
Update for 2018:
This sonnet has been set to music for choir by Kenneth Martin and premiered by SACRA/PROFANA in November, 2018!
Note from the poet: I wrote the sonnet “Something Like a Star” on August 29th, 2014 as part of a year-long writing experiment to see if I could write a sonnet every day for a full calendar year. (Spoiler: I did! And it’s a book now!) Like most of the sonnets I wrote during the project, this is a Shakespearean sonnet, which means that it’s fourteen lines long, written in iambic pentameter, comprised of three four-line stanzas with alternating end rhymes followed by a couplet at the end, and contains a thematic “turn” between the second and third stanzas. It was written just before I went to bed, after taking the dogs for a walk on a warm, clear summer night, which inspired the meditation on stars, as did the episode (or two) of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that my spouse and I watched earlier that evening. The first stanza opens with gratitude for being able to appreciate the splendor of the night sky, even as the second stanza warns that stars are not simply pretty points of light, but vast, potentially destructive phenomena. The last stanza addresses the reader, marveling that all life on earth owes its existence to the star at the center of our solar system, and the couplet turns that observation outward, knowing that every point of light in the night sky could mean life for countless others. Given that the poem was about looking at stars in different ways, it felt right give it a title that riffed on Robert Frost’s poem “Choose Something Like a Star,” which I first encountered in Randall Thompson’s Frostiana. One thing I particularly like about this sonnet is that it feels connected to the past, in writing a poem about stars, is tied to the present, with its anxiety over the sun’s heat, but also looks hopefully toward the future. Given that it was written in the final hours before the start of my birthday, it seems fitting that such things were on my mind.