Tuesday
Dec142010

Stargazing

Keith Montesano




In November, 2009, three college softball players were found dead after their sport utility vehicle went into a pond on a North Dakota farm during a stargazing trip.

We’re all accustomed to the stars: their luminescence too far
     above our heads, and yet few know the names, or care, because

we’re jealous of their lives and deaths, always becoming

     something else, rebirthed in the uncharted spaces we gaze at
under cloudless skies, over counties and cities we’ll never see

     before our own lives expire for good. And yet I wonder

if those who drown turn into angels, those taken by accident
     instead of murder, those who cared about their future lives

 amidst the black pond’s invisible circumference,

     almost taunting, some long bony forefinger reaching out to take
what it wants forever. And how do we find out about LifeHammers

     and ResQMe Keychains if it isn’t through tragedy? Practical

are de-icers for locks, a Maglite’s thin beam gleaming toward what’s missing.
     But water enters the cabin like a flood, first in drips and slow

percolation, before it bursts the cracks like black holes,

     the gush and fill too quick to stop. And how do we practice
before it happens? Relax. Conserve your energy and your air.

     As serious as children’s games: Would you rather be burned alive

or freeze to death? What happens fastest? If you sit and fight
     the whole way, you drown. Perseids. Quadrans Muralis. Beautiful names

meaning nothing in the end. Stay as calm as possible. They were speaking

     of things we’ll never know. Keep your seatbelt on. The sheriff
wanted to say they had trespassed. Don’t wait for the pressure

     to equalize. Who was driving? Roll down or break the window.

The collie couldn’t imagine what was happening, its fur swaying

     like seaweed. Escape through a door. There were signals from a tower 
nearby: words of panic, static, before the cell phones

     floated away from their hands. Look for bubbles and follow
the direction they’re going
. In cars we’re always afraid of collision.

     There were Crash Test Dummies toys: clicked-in plastic test center,

car with two front-seat figures, multiple crash zones. We got further
     from the walls each time, measured how far their bodies would fly,

broke pieces that weren’t meant to break. Everyone asks

     who’s to blame. Were there headlights? And does it matter?
Was there a drop-off they didn’t see—the pond’s dark becoming

     every edge around it? But all we’re left with is the last: Swim to safety.