With a friend of a friend,
at America’s edge,
I scale a cliff whose gleaming slopes
in the preposterous moonlight.
This woman and her courtly silver dog
rove amiably through needles of grass.
The dog sniffs ahead, then bows, urging us
upward as if spreading out a cloak
of moss and gleaming rock for our steps.
Dark and impossibly thin, she quivers
with the wind that blazes through the bones
of everything that lives here.
She’s built her own house, quietly pioneering
on this hill that springs nobly into nothing.
Each dot of light we see below, she says,
stands for another new home
as the San Juans are gradually claimed.
Beyond these local intrusions, across the water,
are the ski slopes of Vancouver,
a nebula hanging in the black negation
of the bay. It’s the color of mint ice cream,
cupping a universe of noise and action
like the secret kicking of an unborn baby.
My astronomy book for children
had the same dreamy smudges
on every page: pink and blue galaxies,
yellow smears of comets
against a dark blue miraculous
in its constancy. From dimmer and ever more
unchartable islands of gas and freezing dust
I’d return to the pale flowers floating on
the black damask of my rocking chair,
ill with knowledge,
letting the book drop.