The Seventh Night / Robert Hass


It was the seventh night and he walked out to look at stars.
Chill in the air, sharp, not of summer, and he wondered
if the geese on the lake felt it and grew restless
and if that was why, in the late afternoon, they had gathered
at the bay’s mouth and flown abruptly back and forth,
back and forth on the easy, swift veering of their wings.
It was high summer and he was thinking of autumn,
under a shadowy tall pine, and of geese overhead on cold mornings
and high clouds drifting. He regarded the stars in the cold dark.
They were a long way off, and he decided, watching them blink,
that compared to the distance between him and them,
the outside-looking-in feeling was dancing cheek-to-cheek.
And noticed then that she was there, a shadow between parked cars,
looking out across the valley where the half-moon poured thin light
down the pine ridge. She started when he approached her,
and then recognized him, and smiled, and said “Hi, night light.”
And he said, “Hi, dreamer.” And she said, “Hi, moonshine,”
and he said, “Hi, mortal splendor.” And she said, “That’s good.”
She thought for a while. Scent of sage or yerba buena
and the singing in the house. She took a new tack and said,
“My father is a sad chair and I am th eblind thumb’s yearning.”
He said, “Who threw the jade swan in the boiling oatmeal?”
Some of the others were coming out of the house, saying goodbye,
hugging each other. She said, “The lion of grief paws
what meat she is given.” Cars starting up, one of the stagehands
struggling to uproot the pine. He said, “Rifling the purse
of possible regrets.” She said, “Staggering tarts, a narcoleptic moon.”
Most of the others were gone. A few gathered to listen.
The stagehands were lugging off the understory plants.
Two others were rolling up the mountain. It was clear that,
though polite, they were impatient. He said, “Goodbye, last thing.”
She said, “So long, apocalypse.” Someone else said, “Time,”
but she said, “The last boat left Xania in late afternoon.”
He said, “Goodbye, Moscow, nights like sable,
mornings like the word persimmon.” She said,
“Day’s mailman drinks from a black well of reheated coffee
in a cafe called Mom’s on the outskirts of Durango.” He said,
“That’s good.” And one of the stagehands stubbed
his cigarette and said, “OK, would the last of you folks to leave,
if you can remember it, just put out the stars?” which they did,
and the white light everywhere in that silence was white paper.


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