October 8th, 2004



Five o'clock in the morning, and the mulberry branch is creaking as it scrapes the rain gutter. I can't hear the breeze that moves it, because I still have the window fan running. It might be possible to return to quiet nights by Saturday, because it will be cloudy. There might even be rain. I would like to hear rain falling, instead of that whirring piece of machinery.

The tree will have to be trimmed this winter. It's slender branches, prone to breakage when loaded with snow, now arch above the cables which feed power and television and telephone service to the house. Though the tree grows rapidly, its foliage will be greatly diminished next summer. I will undoubtedly miss its pleasant shade on sultry afternoons, but I would miss the utilities more were they cut off on some frigid February night.

I cannot concentrate tonight. I keep going out to look at the stars, and the much-reduced moon. The dimmer the nights grow, the more I am drawn to them. All my thoughts dissolve whenever I remember that pale light, and I am compelled to return to its mystery. Paragraphs go unwritten, the dishes go unwashed, the book unread, the end of the movie plays to an empty room. I am not really here.

Another poem by Donald Justice:

The Missing Person

He has come to report himself
A missing person.

The authorities
Hand him the forms.

He knows how they have waited
With the learned patience of barbers

In small shops, idle,
Stropping their razors.

But now that these spaces in his life
Stare up at him blankly,

Waiting to be filled in,
He does not know how to begin.

That he may not answer even

To his description of himself,
He asks for a mirror.

They reassure him
That he can be nowhere

But wherever he finds himself
From moment to moment,

Which, for the moment, is here.
And he might like to believe them.

But in the mirror
He sees what is missing.

It is himself
He sees there emerging

Slowly, as from the dark
Of a furnished room

Only by dark,
One who receives no mail

And is known to the landlady only
For keeping himself to himself,

And for whom it will be years yet
Before he can trust to the light

This last disguise, himself.

Suspended Wetness.

Evening has gathered for itself great store of clouds, blotting out every trace of stars. A breeze is helping the trees rid themselves of dead leaves. There will be but little moon, and that rising late, so all the drama of the sky will remain vague for most of the night. It feels nice, though, and it smells damp, and my ears have been pleased to hear not only the rustling of the trees, but an occasional clatter of an acorn rolling down a roof. Still, the katydid who lives near the faucet bib continues to defy the change of season, as though its desperate chanting could prolong the summer. But the night will grow cold. I insist!

And now, Sluggo gets defragged!