Well, Water, Stars
‘It will be as if, in the place of the stars, I had given you a great
number of little bells that knew how to laugh . . . I, too, shall
look at the stars. All the stars will be wells with a rusty pulley.
All the stars will pour out fresh water for me to drink . . . What
makes the desert beautiful,’ said the little prince, ‘is that
somewhere it hides a well . . .’
—Antoine de Saint Exupéry, translated from the French by Katherine Woods
Every day I try to speak. I used to know
How to move lips and gums and teeth, tongue striking hard
To shape a sentence—or a smile. Signs recognized,
Though wordless, fail me too: I think I dream, sometimes,
By the window, watching cars, waiting, willing you home.
You don’t notice the longing in my eyes—green
Like the sea, the green you drank deep
Each time we stayed at the old house by the lake,
Pumping the well first thing every morning,
Black iron handle giving a sharp creak. The last time
We tasted that mossy, stone-soaked water, you fell asleep
Reading, dreaming in the sun. Pyewacket slipped her leash,
Ran down the beach, paws taking in tiny stones,
Siamese fur a blur at dusk, eyes gleaming bright
Green like the lights across the shore. Time was
We’d sit on the green bench all night, heads
On each other’s shoulders, watching stars,
Glassy-eyed Pyewacket winking as she purred
her own rumbling rhythm on our laps.
That evening she ran free, she never came home.
She had slept with me since a kitten, so familiar, yet
She’d come to me a mystery; tamed me with feline magic,
Her chirps a witch’s charms that only I understood.
When you woke up, I was out walking, and you crawled,
Frantic, calling, under the house, your trousers muddy,
Your lime shirt sprinkled with cobwebs. She wasn’t trapped
Under the boat. She didn’t bob against the dock,
Caught in your fishing lines like a magical carp.
She was gone, her vanishing act as mysterious
As her arrival. I cried bitter water.
Two days later, I went rowing without you
Around the dangerous bluff, missing her,
Blaming you. The currents tore an oar away.
Waves smashed a log into the boat.
I love the water but never learned to swim.
Drowning, I looked up toward heaven, the deep
Green weeds tangling my feet, green water rippling overhead,
Green leaves framing a sky so far away. At least the stars
Twinkled to me, purring with furry light, while I lay waiting
In a deep as dark as sleep, listening to their voices
Singing like tiny Siamese meows,
Enraptured, snared by dreams, drinking our story.
Now I sit curled beside your feet,
Struggling to say your name. You read my
Anxious look as a cat’s plea for affection.
We talk of nothing, but share a bed
As warm, as close, as lonely as before.
— Adele Gardner
With a master’s in English literature, Adele Gardner has twice won third place in the Rhysling Awards of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Her publications include a poetry collection (Dreaming of Days in Astophel) as well as 225 poems and 40 stories in venues such as Legends of the Pendragon, The Doom of Camelot, Strange Horizons, American Arts Quarterly, Silver Blade, Daily Science Fiction, and more. Two stories and a poem earned honorable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Adele also serves as literary executor for her father and mentor, Delbert R. Gardner. Learn more at www.gardnercastle.com.
Editor’s Notes: The free wallpaper image (Gambar Bintang – Pemandangan Luar Angkasa/Star Pictures – View Space) of a nebula is matted by a stock photo of beautiful clear pool water reflecting in the sun (Fedor Selivanov).