Wish You Were Here


Where the city falls
into the river's arms and the cars
are torn apart by the light,
here where the straw and the cats

disappear. How it happens
is a mystery to me.

The blue herons seem at home
by the fountain. Each day I
bring them a pocket's worth of almonds.
The river seems to rise a little

every morning, but so far
nothing has been broken.

Yesterday I saw a school
on the farthest island, but it was only
a chain being thrown against
a flagpole. By noon today the chain
had turned into a moth
and the flagpole was a small brass
lamp on my bureau.

Even that won't go out.

I had to paint all the windows
black, it's the only way
to get any rest. Here all the doors
have secret names

and the castles on the beach
are, I'm sure, true castles.

I met a woman
who makes her living waking
sleepwalkers. She said,
"In all the world they are the most
ungrateful. It's better to work for the dead."
A white speck in her left eye
seemed to grow larger. I know you think

I imagine these things, but the fear
I sometimes feel is still fear.

The shadows of the clouds,
spilled on the mountains, are as solemn
as the pacing of monks
in a garden. You must know

how unnerving this is. Lightning
comes and goes, estranged from its thunder.

I haven't prayed for anything in months,
not rain or affection or a fence
out of my childhood, or the tourists who fall
off the mountain every week

Yet I have wished for you so often,
you are almost here and in the halflight

the shadows are bearing you in.
They are hatless and it's raining
You are singing on their shoulders
and I have slipped this postcard

upside down in any book.

- Susan Stewart