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Too Many Stars

by Jim Bennett

“there are too many stars
can’t count them all”
the old guy said
as he stared at
his empty beer glass
“I’ve tried” he said
“started at the steeple
on the horizon”
he was looking
through the wall
at a distant steeple
“a fixed point see
then you work
your way round”
he pointed his finger
at his horizon
moved it along a bit
then shook his head
“it didn’t work
they move
some sink out of sight
others appear
the whole lot moves
before you get anywhere
it isn’t fair”

“I tried splitting
the sky into grids”
he lifted his hands
fingers and thumbs
formed something like
a square
“counted the contents
worked out how many
squares would fill the sky
but some grids
had more stars than others
so then I started from the north star”
his arm raised
finger pointed straight
up to the ceiling
“tried to count in spirals”
he said as he moved his arm
in small circles
gradually getting bigger
“never finished always
fell asleep before
I got past five thousand”
he shook his head
looked resigned
thoughtfully he added
“on clouded nights
I counted stars
in bits of open sky
but clouds
play slight of hand
shuffle stars
between each patch of sky
so it means nothing
in the end”

“what about the other half
the ones seen from Australia”
someone asked
the man looked sad
“through a telescope
there’s lots more”
someone else said
as he put a fresh filled
glass of Guinness
down in  front of the old guy

he starred at it
and began to cry
“so many bubbles he said
so many you just can’t count them all”

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