He stole the stars above her house, pulling them out with a claw hammer. She wouldn’t love him anymore, so he left her with a blue-black vault of night — the color of the grackles he used to throw rocks at as they crowded out the other birds around their backyard feeder.
He wanted her to see that the sky had been looted. She never noticed though, because already she had taken a lover, and why would she need the sky and its Rorschach of light when she had a man to pin her to the bed each night?
Meanwhile, the stars were back at his place. It was hard to sleep with the glow of them leaking out of his dresser drawers and the bed too big without her. So off he’d go to the couch, which at least reminded him of the times when she had lived there.
Some nights, he’d get up, walk across town, and climb into the crook of her backyard maple — the one with a view of her curtains and the shadow play of bodies.
One night he waited for the other man’s car to leave. Then he reached into his pocket for the pebbles. The first one hit the window and the light came on. She peered into the night, and didn’t seem to notice it was a tiny bit darker. He tried to order his loneliness, to give it a shape so it could fit upon his tongue, but it only slid back and choked him. Then the window came down with a decisive thud, and the light went off again.
He knew he’d be up in her tree forever, and for the first time since taking them, he wanted to return the stars, to make beautiful the sky he would wait beneath.
Charles Rafferty is primarily a poet. Recent poems appeared or are forthcoming in The New Yorker and The Literary Review. In 2009, he received an NEA fellowship. His most recent book is A Less Fabulous Infinity. Currently, Charles directs the MFA program at Albertus Magnus College.