by Tara Barnett
Grandfather gave me a star for my fifth birthday
when I was still young and convinced I could own
something so grand so completely.
I kept evidence of my proprietary rights
protected behind glass above my bed
and prayed each night to the light in the sky
marked with my name.
I imagined some ancient book with each star listed:
a record of ages, mine on the thousandth page.
Grandfather warned me, cynical and old.
He laughed when I told him
that I would someday visit that star. He said,
“Do not believe of what is given,
that it cannot be taken away.
A man does not truly give a star,
or a planet,
or the waters,
or the heavens.”
Such he told me, and now I know it to be true.
I kept my star all these years
sometimes on a wall, sometimes in a box.
As a young woman, when I lost hope and certainty,
I looked at it with sadness
remembering how happy I had once been.
Indulged with a scam, I felt so powerful:
a celestial body at the center of the universe.
My star, my world, my grandfather, my life.
I have none of it now. How could I?
Grandfather told me how once our people
were given land with papers like these.
Papers, he told me, they mean nothing:
a man does not give what he may someday need.
Now the magic is gone from this old world, taken away
with the fish,
and the sky.
Taken away by those in need:
no paper behind thin glass would stop them.
My hands are wrinkled now and shake
clutching my rights to this battered old star.
How could they know that a little girl's dream
could someday be real and visited and wasted?
It has been used, raped, sucked dry of energy
but I still love it because it is mine.
So easily it was given when it had no value.
So easily it was taken when it had worth.
This shuttle will carry me on to my star,
the one thing I own, that I know that I own.
Let them laugh. I have nothing to lose.
I will not give away my Grandfather’s gift.
I will not give away
what I know to be mine.
Tara Barnett is trying to be a writer. She lives in Oregon. Her day job as a professional spambot drove her to the sheltered bosom of science fiction. She’s not leaving anytime soon.