At Six

for Edward Hirsch

Like a distant singing, like a finger sizzling   
for just one moment on the iron, it almost   
hurts. Almost. But then something pulls   
away, and the smooth belly of evening
slides over the earth; the pines and the spaniels   
stop howling and suddenly drop off to sleep.   
While the air is numb with the drowsiness   
of clouds, the needle sails free of the scars   
on the record and the record player lifts   
its artificial arm! This hurts.
But then a boy lays his cards on his bedspread   
the way a sailor spreads his sails   
on the sand, and even this reminds me   
of tables being set, of a woman calling   
and calling her children through blistered   
hands. Then something lets go,
and in her left palm she sees her own eyes,   
and in her right the evening’s first star   
pulls her toward the distant
singing of the sky. Then something else   
lets go; the long sheet of night
winds slowly through the pines.   
Here and there the lights
go up, like a shy applauding.

Susan Stewart, “At Six” from Yellow Stars and Ice. Copyright © 1981 by Princeton University Press. Reprinted with the permission of Princeton University Press.
Source: Yellow Stars and Ice (Princeton University Press, 1981)
More Poems by Susan Stewart