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24 | ecotone billy collins Like the deaths of individuals, the deaths of species make room for more. —William Ashworth So it might be a consolation to think that when we leave we will leave enough room for another newcomer, little particular baby flying into this world as we pull up our collars and rush into the next. Who it will be we will never know, turned, as we are, into vapor or joy or demoted into a frog or a stone. Nor will they, the replacements, ever know of us—we who stood up to give them a seat and fell over dead— too busy as they are now lifting stones and writing letters, boarding trains or sitting in a canvas chair, looking at the water. But let them lie in bed in a room next to a small lamp with a pink shade, let them walk the corridors and dive from the rocky cliffs. Replacements | 25 For myself, I would rather not pass eternity looking down on their travels, their dancing. Just point me to the wall of nothing or grab me by the hair and face me up into the light. 26 | ecotone November Morning No better time to stand on this bridge and get lost in the reflection of clouds on the flat surface of the water, to stand here between two skies one above me and one below as if I had found myself inside the cleft of a mirror. With everything so perfectly doubled in the water it is impossible not to pick up a stone, weigh it in my palm then arc it high over the water. I was only looking for ripples and never could have guessed they would spread out so wide as to become the grooves of a huge long-playing record, a record that continued to spin all the way home issuing forth a song about a mysterious faraway land with only one inhabitant, a strange man who lived alone on a disused bridge between a sky of air and a sky of water. billy collins | 27 New Zealand It was evening, the sky a deepening blue, and we had settled in at a harborside table which a waiter often visited with a tray of drinks. The last thing on my mind was astronomy, but at one point I tilted back my head and beheld scattered above me the early stars of a new hemisphere and, directly overhead, the twinkling points of the Southern Cross. What a relief after a lifetime of the Big Dipper with its odd angles, its bent ladle— more like a rhomboid on a coat hanger to my eye. But there is no mistaking the four points of a cross. The waiter set down another tray of glasses, and I pictured the scales and the crab, the altar and the archer, the furnace and the ram, the small and large dog, the large and small bear— so many, if there were just two stars in the sky, we would have configured them long ago and lain there staring up on ancient moonless nights (a whiff of woodsmoke in the air) contemplating the wonderful simplicity of Tips of the Horns, Eyes of the Frog, or maybe we would just call them the Twins— that one the boy, and off to the side, his sister. ...


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