You Can’t Shift the Stars

Editor’s Note: Liv Parsons recited her poem, “You Can’t Shift the Stars,” on April 24, 2023 at Union Theological Seminary at a book launch for The Planet You Inherit: Letters to My Grandchildren when Uncertainty’s a Sure Thing” by Larry Rasmussen. Parsons was a finalist at the New York City Teen Poetry Slam, as well as an New York City Youth Poet Laureate Ambassador. 

You Can't Shift the Stars

Liv Parsons

In her childhood dreams 
she holds onto the earth, 
stops the bleeding
with her own two hands, a little girl sits on her bedroom floor 
head tilted towards the stars, 
and imagines she could shift them, 
reform the heavens into perfection, 
reshape the sky till it reflects a prettier world,
maybe everyone is a god at seven years old. 

To the little girl dreaming of change from her bedroom floor,
writing novels in your head
between darkness and sleep
little girls minds run wild 
and the world is so vast
and you are so small 
and who will be there to save it
when it all burns down 

because it is burning isn’t it?
the tv said it is 
and mama can’t explain 
how they’re going to fix it, 
and you thought mama could mend anything? 

You believed in perfection 
and infinity. 

It all seemed so clear from your bedroom floor:
just tell the leaders
to get down from their podiums
crawl on the floor till they remember their childhood
play in the dirt
pick the flowers 
swing from the trees,
remind them what they’re losing,
remind them what they’re burning, 
afterall who could look the earth in her eyes and tell her goodbye. 

But you watch the tv 
and the leaders are stuck at their podiums
and they have forgotten what it feels like
to be a child, 
and you can never play god 
and you will never shift the heavens. 

But I hope you know 
I carry your dreams in my lungs,
I breathe in deeply, 
your hope makes a home 
in my stomach 
it hugs the tired parts of me 
till they sprout new dandelions, 

did you know 
you are a garden? 

You have watered yourself since childhood 
with love and laughter 
even on the days, 
especially on the days, 
when hope feels impossible. 

There is a garden within you,
there is a world within you, 
there is a galaxy within you, 
but it is up to you to find it. 

Take out your pen
take out your paint brush
take out your camera 
take out your megaphone, 

and you will discover that the littlest things 
can be a revolution.

You can’t stop the bleeding 
you can’t shift the stars 
but you will discover love is powerful our voices are powerful
our stories are powerful
we are powerful
a little girl on her own can’t reshape the universe
but a movement sure can.

© 2022 Liv Parsons. All rights reserved.
Published with permission.