Stars over the Island

The stars over Nagasaki at night, shine over the city like the lost souls in the summer, looking endlessly for the place they once called home.

If you happen to be out on your grandmother's roof, even though she has told you countless times to stay off of the old stone tiles because they are dangerous and it is no place for a young lady to be climbing at, especially in the middle of the night when the cats are out, sliding out the third story window and grabbing on to the tv antenna as your uncle wonders why his baseball program is being interrupted, and climb up the walk way wall, you will be the recipient of the most magnificent view of the stars in all of the four islands.

Fist, you'll look straight up, your eyes, normally used to the blue-white glow of your cell phone and computer and TV screens, squinting because you can't see anything but the dark blue sky that you think is the same color of your cousin's yukata that she wears in the summer even though she argues that it's cobalt blue and not Prussian. Then you get used to being up there because hopefully it's summer which means it's still warm at night, and you shiver a little because you're so used to the air conditioning all day that you've forgotten a little of what it's like to be out in natural cold, and you start looking up to take in the little dots of light that are sprinkled around the clouds that you think would look like the fireflies on your cousin's dress if you could ever get close enough to see them even though you learned in a science program that was on TV the other day that it would be billions of years before the dots in the sky would ever look like fireflies that the neighbor girl used to catch and then rub on his skin, so that you could see her from your rooftop.

Then you start to pick out the western constellations, the ones you learned about at the planetarium yesterday, when your aunt took you and your cousin, who was sleeping in the back row, by the way, and you think you can see constellations that you shouldn't be able to see this time of year except for the fact that you're on the other side of the world, although that might not matter because the stars existed for a lot longer than you ever had, or the people that thought of the shapes and stories and horrors that were in them, and the light that you see from the heavens glowing softly around the star began traveling to you way back in history when the Genji fought the Heike or even back when your great-ancestor but maybe not depending on who you ask, was left on a battle field, grew up and fought all sorts of wars and did brave ancestor-like things because he was the first Rai, and the light from the stars were watching this as they came along the long, long road to the back mountain top of a small city in the Nagasaki province, out where the houses grow on the mountain like the big mushrooms that your grandmother puts in the rice she makes for dinner, even though she pretends to scold you even though she's the one who showed you the back door that went all through out the tunnels so you could climb up on to the roof and see the stars and the moon melt all together, and see the little name she scratched in the tiles when she was young.

And then your grandmother calls you in because it's late, so you climb down the lattice and leave the fireflies in the sky to go along swimming in their sea of stardust.