Kenneth Ronkowitz – The Light We Leave Behind

Kenneth Ronkowitz

A star chart tells me
that the star I am seeing tonight
is 500 light years away.
It may have died 499 years ago,
and I am still seeing its last light.
Stars are born, they live, and they die.
What is the light that remains when we leave?
If I die after writing this poem, is this my light,
and how long might that light remain and be seen?
I wondered last night and still this morning
about these questions, and still now,
standing again outside
under a mackerel sky dappled, rippled with clouds
and the sun, our family star,
which will also die.
Then, there will be no light remaining.
Perhaps, this is not what you believed.
When it dies, the Earth dies with it.
No last light to come after it.
In its end, the sun will expand
into a red giant
and will vaporize the Earth.
My son rises
and joins me outside
his coffee steaming a small cloud
into the December air.
In this enormous moment,
we look into the sky and universe.
We are a fortnight from the year ending
and hopeful for many more circles
around the sun. We are expanding,
gathering our light, and sharing it
while we can still see it reflected
in those constellating nearby.