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Starry Night

ISSUE:  Spring 1994
Only a few stars are visible when I step outside
For a walk to the mailbox with my packet of poems.
In a week or two Mary will take time out
From preparing her class on Melville to read
This latest offering to the temple of fruitful pages.
She’ll mark the spots that seem to need more work.
If I don’t agree with her now, it’s likely I will
In a month or two when I gain more distance.
Are other writers as lucky in their friends as I am
Or do they go it alone, as Melville did?
To get some distance on Billy Budd, he left the manuscript
Untouched for six months in the dark of a desk drawer,
The last six months of his life, it turned out.
Maybe he was planning to go back to it,
For a final review and then hunt for a publisher
If publishing still mattered to him and he thought a story
So far from the fashion for middling characters
Could find a public. A book so different
From the one I’m writing, the way it reveals its truth
In extremes. How boldly Melville likens his sailor hero
To Adam before the Fall and then to Jesus.
On the lid of the box that held the papers
He pasted the words, “Be true to the dreams of thy youth.”
And if he felt true, as is likely, what more did he need?
Here is the mailbox, and this is the comforting sound
Of my packet of poems hitting the bottom.
And now it’s time to walk back under the streetlights,
Wondering what a youthful dream of adventure
Would conclude if it could see me,
How much explaining it would need to ask for
And how much revision, if it thought revision
In the time remaining a real option.


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