Alternative Constellations by Julie Lunde

The Astronomical Woman . . .

is planetary and huge, looming large, with as many moons as fingers, or stars. Every day she crafts a careful chignon, twisted in on itself like an ampersand, leaking bobby pins. From behind she is always saying yes, and?

Orion’s Belt . . .

must be heavy on his hips, I think, to carry that much light—to hold the sun. His is an hourglass figure, a magazine might say. Cigarette pants are forbidden. Stick to darker hues, nothing too tight. Avoid at all costs anything bright across the span where you are wide. It is ill-advised to string Christmas lights here. His hips should be hidden, cloaked in the black night—to draw the eye to his other assets, broad shoulders, long legs. Perhaps his outline is better suited to a pregnant woman, said to be glowing, but our model not concerned with trends or flattery struts his span for us.

Star-Smugglers . . .

have an impossible task—they shine too hard to hide, dead giveaways, their glow is a smoking gun spilling starlight out of pockets, caught red-handed with a burn from handling; serving up sneers with a shrug, with a smug smile, taunting. They are rude, obsequious; they love you for letting them be snide. They are terrible at hiding and seek, but good at lying. It is a lucrative business, this grave-digging; the pay will pay off just swell.

Mars . . .

Bars and milky ways, penny candies for galaxy hitch-hikers. Thumbs-ups flag down black hole portal taxis; prices are astronomically low here (but Uber rates are sky-high—few stars can drive). Sweeteners taste sweeter at this height; the addicts warn of sterilized star-Splenda that’ll eat you from the inside out. Orion tempted too many of these, his sore sweet tooth always hungering for cavities, for emptiness to fill a hunger for empty calories and empty things, cupboards and calendars, Saturday nights.

Vertigo . . .

The star that is afraid of heights knows real pain—he has made his home in a bed of fear, sinking his teeth deeper into doom, settling down in this hated real estate, praying for a break. He broods, he counts the paralyzed seconds between first lights and last night’s crazy heyday. He sleeps at dawn. He paces his concrete pavement, grey-blue; dancing up a melancholy streak, the fluttered hands flap in distress, the five extremities splay in shivers, in quivers, etc. He says et cetera aloud. He thinks nothing of it.


Julie Lunde works at Penguin Random House and writes in her small Brooklyn apartment. Her previous works have been published in Typishly, Underwater New York, and Tikkun Magazine, among others. Visit her at for more.

“Alternative Constellations” is a guide to the rarer figures of astronomy. I like to think of this piece as the celestial version of Matthea Harvey’s Mermaid Poems; the cast of characters exist somewhere between sky and Earth, providing commentary on the above as much as the below.

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