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BOOKS & THE CULTURE The Navigator’s Triangle “The stars were so many there, they seemed to overlap.” Natalie Merchant Our necks should be built for looking upwards, so we could stand for many hours next to each other, staring into the sky, and the weight of our eyes would not tilt onto our spines and remind us to look ahead, or down at the bones of our feet. Fifty years ago, my grandfather knew these stars like the streetlights in his own hometown: Ursa Major to.Ursa Minor was like a walk around the block, to the North Stara drive to my mother’s school. He could take my mother outside, tilt her head up, and say this is the map of your world. But he couldn’t say I know this because of the War. My mother has always said your grandfather doesn’t talk about it. Doesn’t talk about the years in planes with compasses, maps, and soldiers how he guided them across the sky from the Navigator’s Triangle outward from Vega to the Northern Cross to Cassiopeia and told them just where to let it drop. Last week I asked my grandfather if he knew which planet hung in the sky across from us a lit face. He couldn’t remember. Didn’t know that it was Jupiter, his moons circling about him, all women: Leda, Io, Europa. I stood next to my grandfather, looking upward, my mother watching us from inside, standing still as a point of light. My mother does not know her father, and I do not know what my grandfather knowsif there are stars behind his eyes that no longer mean what they used to meari, mapping a way to people. Tonight the sky is dusted with stars in patches dense as the track an eraser leaves across a blackboard. Scorpius curls its tail around Jupiter, the sign of my birth. And I imagine my grandfather standing under this sky alone: his head rocked back onto his spine like a fallen star, his hands opening into emptiness, looking up. Aqueducts I have carried water to bed with me every night since I was .able to tip a cup to my lips with my own small hands, adopted a cup as my own for years at a time until it was broken or lost though it was not the cup that mattered so much as the holding of water, the water keeping watch over the night. Two centuries back, my grandmother’s ancestors built the aqueducts in Turin, Italy. My mother tells me this today, and it is the only thing I know of them the family Audoa line sunk by the weight of my great grandfather Grossoa name as vast and still as the bowl of a reservoir. The names of my great grandparentsCelestina, Antonare as far back as I can name, as my mother can name. The stories come to me slowly, as water struggling to pass through a dam. I know a few small thingslike switchbacking up a hill: that Celestina came to America first, her hands empty of pennies and English that my grandmother refuses to speak her native tongue, does not speak at all of her life before my grandfather, the war navigator, the architect of her world, who washed over her family name like a flood. I imagine the aqueducts of Northern Italy pressed into the landscape by my family’s hands, climbing into the city like children into laps, reaching for my grandmother’s face with small-boned hands: the hands my mother used to raise me above her head, the hands in which I carry waterholding it to my lips in the dark, night after night. Brittney Corrigan Brittney Corrigan was raised in Colorado and now lives in Portland, Oregon, where she graduated from Reed College in 1994. She is working on a collection of poems as well as a picture book for children based on her thesis, which explored animal transformation motifs in fairy tales, folklore, and mythology. Her poems have been published in The Rude Girl Press, Bread and Roses, and The Small Press Collective. She has also choreographed for The Dance Cartel, a local collective. She remembers driving to Texas from Colorado with her family as a child to visit relatives in Plano”either braving the ice the day after Christmas, or in the 100+ heat of July”and once leaving her favorite feather pillow in an Amarillo hotel. Wealth of memory what is known and what may only be imaginedshines deep at the heart of her poetry, becoming the treasure passed on through generations. A richly developed sense of presenceswater, stars, family stories, namesresonates and sustains. Naomi Shihab Nye 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER DECEMBER 6, 1996