The Opposite of Stars – a poem by Alia Hussain Vancrown

The Opposite of Stars

Grieving you is terrible work because I don’t know how to do it. Light pours into the room like stale tea between blinds gnawed through by the frustrated cat unable to go outside. There are teeth holes and claw holes in the white, enough holes to be the opposite of stars.

I make mushroom tea, watch the ground volva float then catch in the strainer like silverfish. I force its spine down my throat, wait for the wriggling to start.

Grieving is self-induced ritual, or has become self-induced ritual, after it was natural. Enough years have passed that people don’t want your name on my lips anymore. I imagine what your young body must look like now in the ground. Are you skull and hair? Are you vertebrae and nails? It’s smart to subscribe to religion that describes the soul—what the body becomes, to earth, to bugs, is unbearable and unforgiving.

I chug the hot juice of smaller gods faster, scald the architecture of self, brutalist. Here is the heart made geometric, concrete, an institution. Here is the brain, simple and utilitarian.

Until frogsong croaks in nighttime reverie, masks street traffic, marital arguments, the neighbor’s crated terrier.

I went into this thinking I’d resolve death as if by magic.

Dendrochronology reveres trees. Who above listens to the chatter of teeth?


Alia Hussain Vancrown has published in journals and magazines in print and online. Her poetry has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She was selected to participate in Winter Tangerine’s 2018 workshop, Singing Songs Crooning Comets, featuring seminars by Kaveh Akbar and Aricka Foreman. Alia works at the Library of Congress in the Law Division. She currently resides in Maryland. For more, please visit and Instagram @aliagoestothelibrary.

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