Listen, I don’t just dislike
phones, I often have to say a quick prayer
before picking up the receiver,

so this evening, after my wife
went to bed, after a day
of little victories—helping her walk

as far as the kitchen, planting
the amaryllis bulb that waited
under the sink all month—

after a long pause
in which I considered letting the phone
ring its own neck,

I answered, and was rewarded
by the voice of our oldest son, calling
from Finland to check on his mother.

It was 3 a.m. in Kalajoki, his rock band
had finished a concert, and he was phoning
from two hundred yards off shore,

alone on the Baltic ice, standing
for the first time
before the Northern Lights.

There’s this huge arc of light
in the sky, he said, and its reflection
on the ice makes a full circle!

It’s like—after our show—the gods were
desperate to one-up us!
Then he laughed and said,

Well, that’s their specialty, right?—
cosmic effects and complete

It surprised him how brief a walk it took
to go from the club’s party
to a place out of earshot of everything.

Listen, he said, can you hear?
Not a sound! Our drummer insists
auroras make a sort of hum

but I could be in deep space.
There’s not
a peep.

I closed my eyes and pictured him,
phone held at arm’s reach,
letting me listen to

so we stood like that a while—
he on the ice, I in my slippers

in the living room north of Boston—
until he got cold and
headed back for hot wine

and more music—I gotta make
a little noise
and I went upstairs, curled

around my wife, listened
for the sound of her breathing,
then shut my eyes

and saw at once the brilliant
arch of light
completed on frozen waters,

like a rose window made of ice and fire
or like a doorway
that had opened in some thin place

between worlds,
though this was happening
behind my own eyes,

as if I were having a seizure
or stroke,
or a vision, and maybe

after my wife’s surgery
I was overtired,
but it seemed in that moment

one could step through
into the heart of things
and be at peace, be

completely silent,
which is when some sob
or shaking startled her awake—

It’s all right,
I said,
everything’s all right,

and I lay in the dark
keeping my eyes open
as long as I could,

not wanting to see again
that almost
frozen whirlpool of light.

Then I put my hand upon
her shoulder’s soft rise and fall
and let her lead me.