I hobble up the driveway holding Mary’s arm & leaning
on that old collapsible black cane I never
thought I’d have to use again. A week ago
this life was nothing but intolerable pain,
but now it’s rather wonderful again. Raymond,
goofily delighted that we’re strolling slowly thru the dark,
lopes on ahead, barking merrily: Make way! Make way!
an all but moonless night in which we have stepped out
to look at Mars, just past the driveway,
over the Tecate hills, huge & glowing in the eastern
sky, & closer to the Earth than it has been in slightly
under sixty thousand years. — No, Mary shakes her head,
it can’t be Mars. That thing’s too bright . . . too big.
Then, peering at it through her birding binocs,
tells me that she’s certain what it is I’ve been admiring
up there is just another border-patrol chopper
hovering above the canyons between here & Mexico,
chasing down some band of hapless campesinos
working their way north. — No, it’s Mars all right!
I’d recognize it anywhere! I say authoritatively,
as is my wont, & pointing with that hollow cane of mine
to where it gleams — as bold & asymmetrical
as any of those feverish-looking asterisks I scribble
in the margins of my books, marking passages that seem
absolutely right or marvelously put, & worth (O sweet
& foolish dream) returning to some day when I have time —
I patiently explain to her that Mars is just where
it’s supposed to be: straight up the driveway,
past Coyote Holler Road, where we ourselves
are standing, looking east. Gleeful, tail awag,
Ray hunkers down & looks east too, expectantly,
while I — inspired at last & flourishing
that hollow wand of mine, as Johannes Kepler
might himself have, centuries ago —
trace, among that intricate vast circuitry of stars,
the constellations of Krokidium (the bloated frog) & Balthor
& Valdubius, exactly where they’d have no choice
but find themselves this time of night above the planet Earth,
up in the August sky. Mary, dutifully impressed, takes my arm
& heads us back, suggesting that for all we know
there’s not a single one of all those stars that even
has existed for a million years. Ridiculous! I bellow.
If they don’t exist just how the hell could we be looking
up at them?! To which she mumbles something
that I won’t repeat, & kisses me, & slips her arm
around my waist, & says it’s nice to have me home.
I wince, & hobble eight or ten more feet, & look up
at the sky for one last time, & tell her just what any
self-respecting star might well have said if it could speak:
Honey, you can’t believe how glad I am I still exist.