“The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest
and true as any on the shadow’d wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.”
Walt Whitman (Section 52: lines 4-6,
Song of Myself, 1891 Edition)
October 1, 2020:
1,013,700 COVID-19 dead worldwide
206,852 dead in the United States
“It is such a secret place, the land of tears.”
Antoine de Saint Exupéry
(The Little Prince, p. 31)*
I have been in danger
of becoming a grownup.
Too tall to bend down,
consider the flower,
its surprise opening in the dark.
Too arthritic, my stiff neck
incapable of ratcheting up
to notice the star, its soft light.
Too myopic to look away from the ledger,
columns of figures summing up
my shortcomings and goings
busy with so many matters,
too few of the heart–
how one sees rightly,
the little prince’s tamed fox
explaining what is essential
being invisible to the eye
of the would-be emperor
lording it over
his fake kingdom,
of the wind-up monkey
tipping its red cap each time
to the clatter of hands clapping,
of the geographer recording
his ephemeral landscape,
of the lonely man counting
what belongs to no one
belonging to him.
Why the lamplighter
goes on doing his work
shedding the darkness
for children knowing what makes the desert beautiful . . .
is that somewhere it hides a well
of sweet water only a child is permitted to find.
*Selected characters and scenes in the poem are based on the novel whose time has come again:
Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s The Little Prince, Harbrace Paperbound Library, 1943.
Italicized words, Stanza 12, are from The Little Prince, p. 93.