Hot rods and custom rides trickle out of Wexford,
their sad bumper mouths and downcast headlights
at the fading day means the car cruise is wrapping up
until next Friday, when their buffed-out deep-coat metal-flake clear-coats
can shine again in the afternoon sun.
They could extend their buzz if they were to follow us
on our crepuscular drive away from the day
and into the rarity of a cloudless Pittsburgh night.
They could park their showpieces in Wagman’s field where
a row of telescopes would steal the attention away from their pin-striped uni-bodies,
and where the argot changes from grease monkey to star junkie.
Light buckets, hand-ground mirrors, globular clusters, and declination are
familiar words to these astronomers, who proudly say “I’m amateur,”
as they welcome strangers to the eyepiece. Some reveal the moons of Jupiter
and others the rings of Saturn, and one, incredibly,
a weather balloon, rising to chase the last rays of sunlight,
disposable instruments swinging below the golden helium-filled sphere.
Your wonder and awe is their reward, these ushers to the twinkling skies.
Skies that have for countless generations gripped the hearts of our ancestors and
yet so quickly become an out-of-focus backdrop to
our modern world of constant diversions.
— Mark Conaway
Mark Conaway, a retired air traffic controller, lives in Franklin Park.