The Gardner’s Version, 1969

I find him at the bottom of the pool

but strangely: faceup. As if

he’s fallen asleep beneath the water

staring at the stars. And I assume

 

he went swimming last night

in his jeans and leather jacket

as he’s done before. I remember

thinking how clear and sharp

 

the stars were before I went

to bed, as if the window of sky

had been rubbed hard with

newspaper, the way I’ve seen

 

Maude go at the dining room

panes before guests arrive.

I asked her once, Why newspaper?

and she pointed at the glass: See?

 

No, I said, and she smiled: Exactly.

What constellation was he looking at?

He’s told me more than once

where they are, and invited me to look

 

in the telescope on the balcony.

I saw two smudges and a smear.

The moons of Uranus, he said.

I hook him under the arms with

 

the sweep and drag him to the surface.

There’s no need to hurry, I can see that.

With one heave I haul him on

the deck, and though there isn’t any

 

hope I kneel anyway to blow into

his body. I hear Maude scream

before I see her; she must think

I’m kissing him, as once in the woods

 

beyond the stable I kissed her.

I suppose I am. Good-bye, Mr. Jones.

And this time it’s his cheek I touch

with my fingers. Good-bye.

About James Harms:

James Harms is the author of seven books of poetry including Comet Scar, to be published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2011. He is a recipient of an nea fellowship, the pen/Revson fellowship, and three Pushcart Prizes, among other honors. A Professor of English at West Virginia University, he also directs the low-residency mfa program in poetry at New England College.