Poetry | September 01, 1987

Includes the poems:

  • The Cycle of Their Lives
  • Walking to Work
  • Traveller
  • Conjunctions
  • A Lack of Epitaphs



He’s ten, travelling alone for the first time—

By bus to the city. He settles an empty seat

And waves out at where I stand on the footpath

Waiting for him to be taken. Barely a shadow

Grinning behind smoked glass. To his eyes

I am a dim figure far off, waving and smiling

In a choppy sea of traffic. Behind me, bright

As a bed of marigolds, the sun melts down

The black back of hills across the Hudson. For

All there is to say we’re deaf to one another

And despatch our love in shrugs and pantomime

Until he gives thumbs-up as the bus sighs shut,

Shuddering away from me. He mouths words I

Can’t understand; I smile back regardless,

Blowing a kiss across the air that empties

Between us. Alone, he stares out a while, admiring

His height and speed, then reads two chapters

Of The Dark Is Rising. When the real dark

Leaches in, he sees nothing but the huge loom

Of a hill, the trees’ hooded bulk and

Come-hithering shadow. He tries to curl up

In sleep, but sleep won’t come, so he presses his cheek

Flat against the cold black glass and peers out

Past his own faint ghost and up at the sky

As any night-time traveller would—as Henry Hudson

Must have, sailing his Half Moon past Poughkeepsie,

Smelling already the Pacific. My son seeks the stars

He knows: Orion with his belt, his sword, his dog

Fall into place and make some sense of the dark

Above his voyaging. When I found him, he will say,

I felt at homeAnd fell asleep. I imagine

Him asleep in his seat there

Like that wet sea-boy dozing at mast-head,

Whose lullaby the whole Atlantic hums

In the lull between storms, the brief peace

Between battles, no land in sight.

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