a little star becomes a starry wheel 

    rolling in huge silence     toward us

announced by meteoric children 

       flashing to nobody’s rescue 

the catastrophe 

will be continuous

           too big to be felt


thinking    I don’t want to

the bride approaches glittering  



later she’ll wonder     must every 

                wedding be a bloodbath


spidersilk plus cosmic debris equals 

      cobweb     veil of andromeda

      spiraling from interplanetary cloud

               into her room

brightly particulate 

in slanted light 

     dust in the clouded eye      

                 of told you so

eye that sees

     mother trail bright waves 

            across her wrist     no one 

                 more beautiful      all mothers 

say these things       but mother not        

where the gods can hear


that’s how you end up wheeling 

      upside down      through heaven

             nailed to your glittery throne

. . .

clink of chains 

andromeda’s monster rises  

         where the sea roars & whitens

                  time for the sacred wedding

or feast

perhaps the god thinks 

it will be a treat for him 


but what can he do, Cetus

with this little breathing thing

              finless     earthy     no part 

                           of his usual diet

someone should ask if he might rather 

        sink               silent as the bride

                      into the starless deep            

. . .

       already andromeda 

     shone like a dropped 


       over the departures 

           of certain huge animals

   slow-moving     dusty as old rugs 

leaving a remnant bitterness 

        of wild cousins     missing

                their phantom familiars

osage orange     honeylocust   coffeetree 

      all this puzzling unsweetness     

          is only fidelity to extinct 

          desire     the austere preference 

                          of vanished monsters                                 

apple will you grow bitter 

 without your bees 

        your bears      gorging on windfall

               in abandoned orchards

what is a word for  

 animals that wish

. . .

she wishes to have 

a serious belief in the timely approach 

of the winged bridegroom

       spiraling down    

 meteoric flash of his shield

eyes closed      waving the fatal head      

  he’ll say don’t look

           and she won’t


Click here to read Martha McCollough on the writing of this poem:

Martha McCollough:

Ovid’s Andromeda is speechless, doesn’t have a single line. The gods in the story are horrible as always. Cassiopeia should have known better than to brag but ancient queens never learned. Cetus is not asked for an opinion, as mythic monsters exist only to rage and be slain. Everyone ends up among the stars.

The contrast between helpless Andromeda the girl and Andromeda the galaxy, the catastrophe. The return of the bride, angry at last (not arriving for another 4 billion years though so that’s all right). Plants that, having evolved in partnership with large animals now extinct, continue for thousands of years to produce enormous fruits, though no animal will eat them.

Every extinction is a bereavement. Even the death of Cetus must have been a grief to someone.

The scale of evolutionary time, cosmic distances and times, the timelessness of myth. As mammoths wink into and out of existence Andromeda the galaxy already approaches, while Andromeda the myth is always already tied
to her rock.

Image: “Cop” by Jordi Cucurull, licensed under CC 2.0

Martha McCollough
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