Burn Still the Bright Stars

By, Stephanie Cottrell BryantFebruary 3, 2003

In memory of the Space Shuttle Columbia and her crew of five men and two women, lost on February 1, 2003.

When I lay on my back to gaze at the stars
My dreams filled with silvered ships and men
I lay dreaming, imagining my space craft,
Other children beyond the next star, dreaming, awake.
The stars bright in my eyes, I never forgot
The red-gold blazing of my juvenile hope.

That long summertime of youth and new hope
Faded to dark night, kissing beneath the stars.
Oh! Our hearts blazed, our faces flushed to forget
Our minds and our breasts burned for the hands of men.
We lied, we loved, we slept; we pretended not to wake.
I turned my mind and efforts to. . . other crafts.

These hands that wash, cook, knit, sew, craft,
That hold an infant, brush the soft whispery locks of hope.
These hands lie still and soft until they wake.
These hands reach down to clasp those of my stars.
They open jars, turn gears and gaskets, as strong as most men.
These hands burn silent. They forget.

My hands burn silence, as I forget
Caught in crescendos of my sonorous craft.
Soul-filling thunder, high acclaims of men,
All the great golden voice of my sorrow and hope.
And I sing, my voice free, unto the stars–
My song blazing high, to dawn’s new waking.

Softer songs fill the dreary hall where a wake
Limps on. Teared faces try to forget
The lost, weak eyes, dull glass, darkened stars.
No man of medicine or science could save her, for all their craft.
In this room of sorrow and loss, the quieting of hope,
We come round together and hold close our grieving men.

I am an explorer, a woman among men.
My sex’s long dreams of flight now awake.
I, a pioneer, a teacher, a lover, a friend. I hope
To bring back dreams to our daughters, who shall not forget
That above this world is my hearth, my home, my craft–
My crew, my laughter, my family among the stars.

We wake today to a vision; we cannot forget
Hope. A blazing streak was one, fragile, spacecraft.
Dream still the young men and women. Burn still the bright stars.


Copyright 2003, Stephanie Cottrell Bryant. Please contact the author for permission to republish this work. Permission is automatically granted to share this work with the family, friends, and colleagues of the Columbia crew.


What is a Sestina?
A sestina is a poetic form in which you have six stanzas of six lines each, switching around the ending word for each line according to a specific formula. There is no set rhythm to a sestina (so, no iambic pentameter to worry about here), but most poets use some form of rhythmic regularity. I haven’t in this one, except to try not to limp too much.Sestina resources:
Sestina Page
sestina (poetic term)
The Sestina Page (on Geocities– has popups, and a list of links, some of which are dead).
Poetry Form: Sestina

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