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The Night Sky

ISSUE:  Summer 1999

In the book you’ve been reading
it’s the end of the season.
The shades have been drawn
in that house by the lake,

and a woman is standing
alone on the porch. She thinks,
There’s no sense pretending
I could have been happy here.

A few notes from a piano
float across the water,
and you wonder if that isn’t
more than is needed—

how the music suggests
the idea of change
gathering in the distance.
But not for her. She’ll return

to her father, who drinks too much,
having failed as a doctor, then
as a farmer. She can see
him asleep in his chair

after dinner, a small fire
in the grate, snow in the garden.
And on the table, the bills
to be paid. He’d be lost

in bitterness without her,
which she understands. So this
is a story about accommodation,
how quiet feelings come to matter

and finally suffice.
She watches the wind fall back
across the water. And you think:
But she deserves to be happy.

Perhaps, in the final few pages,
something unexpected will occur.
Perhaps only the moon will rise.
Yet her life is this book

and when the moon appears
at last in the night sky
that may be all the story requires.
Now her thoughts are as real

for you as they must be
for her, the way it was
when you first fell in love.
You could be standing beside her.

She could be waiting
to be touched. But why
is he waiting, she wonders,
if he knows how I feel?


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