Above and Beyond

Eclipse. Photo: Reinhold Wittich.

“EVERYTHING has a schedule if you can find out what it is.” —John Ashbery

On Labor Day, the sun in Virgo and Neptune in Pisces achieved perfect opposition. One way to translate this: The heart attempted austerity & sobriety under the crushing, carceral weight of delusions and dreams, my own and everyone else’s.

There was a sheet of pure pain wound around my heart, like a postallergen sour gelatin or a Fruit Roll-Up for anhedonic adults you’d buy at Whole Foods. I’d been home two days. My mom had been fully homeless two days. North Korea had detonated a hydrogen bomb in those two days. I was trying to learn boundaries.

On September 5 at 5:35 AM, Mars entered Virgo. Just get your shit done and be fucking tidy about it, I told myself; don’t make it an emotional issue just because you can. Get what you need by breaking every single goal down into a sequence of tiny, even boring, tasks. If the tasks are too interesting break them down further: Make them bland and easy and mildly satisfying to polish off, like rice balls.

Pretend this is a Beckett novel and I am Molloy sucking stones in his mother’s house, irreproachable in his pathos and hilarity.

On September 5 as the moon waxed in Pisces and Mercury & Mars went direct in Virgo I was numb. OK there was a slight combustible vibe coming from the base of my guts. But my guts are like a barbecue into which charcoal briquettes have been laid but to which no flame has yet been brought.

I got back from Norway three days ago. Like a lot of culture industry proles I was away all summer, moving through the world in a variegated lacework of residencies, jobs, and festivals, traveling in steerage to eat salmon beside the moderately famous, teaching poetry in a mansion in the Eastern Bloc, conjugating my longings, from the vapid to the profound, into Whatsapp, hack introspection journalism, the kind of sex that can only be described as a heaving poultice; the kind of meditation you do at dawn with polished rose quartz up your thing. Which is to say I got through it only by the grace of a moderate amount of what they call self-care while moving like an earthworm through the humus of dead bad people’s ideas.

Ours is a world of structures that enact the bad ideas of dead people.

Jupiter will enter Scorpio on October 10th, magnifying every little thing you or anybody else has ever repressed, even wanted to. I mean this physically. I’m kind of freaked out about what that might feel like. I’m also a little spooked about what it might look like in the world. I get a volcanic, tectonic vibe from this transit—big earthly things shooting up from below. And in us, in people, our so-called animal natures looming large in the bodies we try so hard to elegantly drag around.

Let me try to remember last month for a second. I remember that my period came a week early, on August 21, timed perfectly with the solar eclipse in Leo. I was well away from the path of totality, bleeding like a champ, trying to think there had to be something marvelous about millions of Americans bearing witness to our eclipse as a culture. While my heart roasted and puckered like a nonkosher hot dog at a kiosk outside a ballgame neither of whose teams I could possibly root for, an idea with a faint whiff of wisdom came to me: As the world cooks so does the human heart. I must cool my heart at all costs, I thought. I must feed it cooling foods, endew it in any and every possible calming thought. I must cool it with the primary coolant of all sentience: with breath.

Do you remember the August 7 lunar eclipse? I almost don’t. It happened at 15 degrees of Aquarius, with the Sun, Mars, & the lunar North Node in Leo. A collective, networked version of the truth, however distorted or even “fake,” eclipsed the fundamental truths and yearnings in our own hearts, and subjugated them. A lot of other major stuff was happening in the heavens too but I don’t have my whole entire life to write this. I was at the Hopi reservation in Arizona looking at colored orbs across the mesa, having a normcore paranormal experience. A week later was Charlottesville.

I would have to write a separate essay to begin to be able to talk about what happened in Charlottesville. In fact, I’m not even going to mention the stars. They don’t cause us to do things. We are reflections of them, but as anybody who has ever been to a funhouse knows, there are a lot of different ways to reflect a given reality.

It wasn’t until last week that I learned that a dear friend had almost died from a kidney infection and that the sister of a friend had died suddenly when an ear infection became meningitis, all around the second eclipse. Saying nothing of my lover’s visits to the emergency room for severe allergies, another friend’s exploded spinal disc, another friend’s purchase of Kevlar vests in advance of a fall semester he knows will be full of violence. All around the eclipse.

I get why in many cultures you’re not supposed to do anything during eclipses except maybe eat yams and sing songs. And I get why traveling while Mercury’s in retrograde is a bad idea. If we lived in a civilized society we would worship menstruators, time our labors to the doings of the sun and moon, meditating would be the law, and nuclear research would be about telepathy and the quantum field, not bombs. Killer Drone would be nothing but a genre of music. Graven images would exist to enhance mental clarity, not mind control. All great thinkers would be poets.

By 7:30 AM on September 5, Mercury will go direct in Leo, blessing me, you, and everybody we know with about four shining days to pour our intellects straight into our hearts. It’s like there will be a Jacob’s ladder running from the pineal gland down into the bowels of what hurts.

In the wee hours of the 6th the moon will be full, in Pisces, funneling every particle of divine longing in the universe down into the seat of all longing and all generosity, literally the bottom of the heart, while our brains are all lit up. We have an opportunity, four days, to get so clear about what we really want.

There are so many things I don’t want to look at or think about. There are so many ways my private dreads are hooked up to the global economy it’s just impossible to think about. Why isn’t my homeless mother standing behind my desk and raving at me right this second? Why do we have to be inside the lives we are in? Because they are our blessing, down to the tiniest particle. Will we all die in nuclear holocaust tomorrow, or will our souls gradually atrophy in a capito-cybernetic nightmare of twitching silicones, state murder, apocalyptic weather, and the hundred thousand vicious connivances that gnaw even our tiniest parts, even in the dead of night, pulverizing our souls to powder?

Artists, between September 6th and 9th write down your dreams and record what happens in your heart. I mean physically. I can feel mine right now as I type this. It feels like a frozen Eggo waffle in a toaster and the toaster is on. Yes it feels flat and round and frozen and melting and singeing at the edges. I mean every part of my metaphor and so can you.

On September 9th, a little before 11 PM, Mercury, lord of all thought and speech and the trickster behind our every idea, will enter Virgo, cooling our brains off, which is going to be such a relief—it’s going to make it possible for us to put our heads down and do the basic carpentry of putting and keeping our lives together. The heart won’t be hot in the same way, but neither will the mind have the same access to it.

If you can bear the sacrifice—and if you are an artist you should—use September 6th to 9th to face your own heart, hard. Use your fucking brains to get in there. The climate that is changing, which includes the kind of climate change that sees Nazis take their sheets off, includes our hearts. I hate to say it, but climate change began there.

Ariana Reines is a poet & playwright. She astrologizes at