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.
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.