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The Art of Stars

  • 13 Oct 2021
  • 5 min

On 11 October 2021, UNGEI brought together education and GBV actors, teachers, experts, activists and artists to launch a new campaign to end gender stereotypes. During the launch event, poet, writer and teacher Maya C. Popa performed "The Art of Stars", a poem she had written for International Day of the Girl. The poem is a celebration of the women and girls who changed the course of history with their courage and hope, who defied gender stereotypes and constraints to dream of, and work towards, a better world and future for all of us. 

Maya C. Popa

The Art of Stars

What the history books neglect 
is that the first astronomers 
were women gazing up at depths
and wishing for a different planet. 

Pleading with pinpricks 
for the glimmer of a promise, 
an abacus or alphabet,
a way out of fate that seemed

written not in stars, but stone.
So alone were the women 
they invented a language
for each other and for light.

Perched atop the roof 
of her father's business 
at the Pacific National Bank, 
Maria Mitchell discovered

the first American comet. 
Leave it to a woman gazing 
out the window of the universe 
to name the racing fire 

splitting the sky. She opened
schools to train girls in math 
and science, fought against
slavery and for suffrage. 

She knew that hope must 
leave a trail, a glow that can 
be followed, a lamp by which 
the past can write itself onward.

Every woman I’ve known
carries three futures inside her—
the one forged from the present’s 
patience, and the longed for one 

hung on what might be, if only.
The third, imaginary imminence 
of a child’s if she chooses—
our human history in short—
like a star awaiting its turn 
in the firmament. Imagine 
carrying all of these tenses 
inside you and learning 

the ones who walked before 
kept you from learning at all. 
They feared your brilliance, 
your way of reading the sky 

for signs of falling, the spaces
inside you the opposite of empty.
They could not believe what 
was so obvious: that your silence 

was capable of moving mountains,
your arms were as strong 
as invisible threads that guide 
one orb around another. 

For what is a star if not proof 
that what we think we know 
and see, is larger, darker, warmer 
than it is? Each woman is a list 

of unacknowledged achievements: 
to live after bearing life, to outstrip 
every opportunity for death, to look 
and see the infinite for what it is,

an emptiness filled with light. 
And who, time and again, but girls 
will save us? Bless their shoulders
that carry the planet, and the heavens,

and the stars which are their art.