And entering towns the guns had missed.
towns out of storybooks,
we saw the constellation of the Snake
but we were afraid to look at each other.

The earth smelled like an orphanage—potatoes,
disinfectant, shoes—I thought
Time walked next to us, years, centuries.
And someone shook a tambourine, someone we couldn’t see.

There were noises and tiny bluish-yellow lights.
What did they mean, those fireflies
signaling to us in the dark?
I even thought those noises were the lights.

And we walked on together. I was with you, you were with me.
It was like that dream I had: the corpse of an old man
shone in the dark, a baby clung to his chest, both wrapped in a cocoon.
I could see the awful, delicate, wax-like hands of the baby

dabbling at the man’s chin. The moon slid out,
suddenly. We met, we said goodbye.
If you remember that night, as I do,
wherever you are now, whatever fate

steers your life, know what I know: the time
we had was sacred like a great king’s dream
turned by his people into a myth they use
to keep themselves from believing life’s a dream.

Whatever I looked at was alive, everything had a voice,
but I never found out were you a friend, an enemy,
was it winter, summer? Smoke, singing, midnight heat.
I wrote thousands of lines. Not one told me.

This Issue

March 9, 1978