I Carry the Night Sky


Angular and turquoise,

gilded in rusty pints of cheap paint,

the ’60’s decor of the all-night diner

had aged poorly, but we claimed it

as our bivouac to conquer the world --

of philosophy and travel, literature

and art, of endless European adventures,

discoveries and wild imaginings.

Like twin Odysseuses, we charted

our siege of Troy and the 20-year journey home,

hauling in the spoils of the Renaissance

and 19th-century Europe,

plotting untold marvels to come.

We drank American-style

café crèmes, buzzed by cup after cup,

lighting up the night sky

with fanciful constellations

of Germany and Greece, Italy

and France, and carrying

the sky into dawn.


The last I heard, you had cut your hair

and beard, bought a shiny three-piece suit,

then settled into an office job on the West Coast.

Shades of Dorian Gray, I thought, without

a decent painting. Later my brother told me

that you had been killed by an aneurysm at 28.

I knew then that you never had the chance to leave

the country, buy a passport or foreign currency,

or take the first step toward realizing the dream

of European travel we shared. I made up for

both of us, invading the Continent and Britain

more than 30 times. The discoveries never lost

their luster or the adventures their lure.

The diner stands, down-at-the-heels, but there.

I haven't crossed its threshold for nearly 50 years.

But I know the coffee has turned cold,

the swirls of cream have dissipated into thin air,

and a permanent stain covers the flecks of Formica.

Still Odysseus at heart, I count the constellations,

resist the Sirens’ song, and carry the night sky alone.

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