It was late, & Mary, I thought, was already asleep when I figured to
make another stab at cleaning that insufferably cluttered desk
where I write my poems before turning in for the night.
But when I whispered, “Honey, sleep well,” certain
she wouldn’t hear me, she unexpectedly opened her eyes,
& by way of explaining why she was lying awake said, in a voice
weighted with grief, that last night Ivan had come back for a visit.
I nodded, mumbling something or other to let her know that
I understood, & watched as her eyes closed again & she drifted
uneasily into that world that is even stranger than this one,
that world into which those who have left us for good
sometimes return. Of course I was taken aback, given how many
years ago all of that was: Ivan, her beloved companion & solace
in that Ebers Street place those three years I was gone —
that feisty, game, affable cat who was with us still when we
were together again, in those houses we rented in Lakeside & Santee,
& then up here in this tiny place in the hills in that final year of his life,
by then an old, scraggly tom, riddled with cancer, hobbling
about on three legs. Ivan, one more small grief that the heart
pretends it can bear. I clicked off the light, letting her sleep,
& walked down the hallway into this unkempt room, my so-called
study, this jumble of books & papers & half-finished poems. Yes,
painful for sure, but a gift nonetheless, a visit like that from someone
she’d loved with such unbroken devotion — Ivan, who’d managed
somehow to find his way back to this house & curl up beside
her once again, if ever so briefly — is what I was thinking as I sat myself
down here at this desk that I’m always planning to clean & wrote this.