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James Webb

Virginia Watts

          - In memory of my brother Mark, 1953-2000


When it is dark on this planet, I examine

images from the James Webb telescope,

dissolve into memories of my big brother

I lost decades ago. He would have loved JW.

Look away from where you are rooted,

I tell myself. Think beyond your life of one.

In ‘72 it felt more like a life of two.

Mark and I, armed with paper sky charts,

spent hours on backyard grass squinting

at mostly the moon’s contoured face, what we

could see best with a mail order telescope.

I bet there’s a galaxy beyond our galaxy, beyond

the Andromeda Galaxy, where everything

is orangey green and works opposite of here.

Mark’s response: You’re nuts as usual.

Sometimes in the backyard with him,

the star charts, and the scope, fireworks

launched from a nearby park. When the first one

sailed into dark sky like a tiny, brave rocket ship,

it was all I hoped for. Colors that didn’t look

like themselves reinvented the ink of night.

He asked me once which color was my favorite.

The one I haven’t seen yet. His response: That’s almost not nuts.




Virginia Watts is the author of poetry and stories found in CRAFT, The Florida Review, Reed Magazine, Pithead Chapel, Permafrost Magazine, and Broadkill Review among others. Her poetry chapbooks are available from Moonstone Press. She has been nominated four times for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. A short story collection is upcoming in November 2023 from The Devil’s Party Press. Visit her at

Photo Credit: Emilee Luke, "Montana Second Lake"

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