“That ring will outlive you,” my friend says,
pointing to the gold band I’ve never taken off
since my wedding decades ago.
Why he’s chosen this one object
to make his point, I’m not sure.
He could have pointed to the cement bassin
marked “1901” or the rusted, ruined car
with huge fat fenders and running boards
and a tree growing right through its sunroof,
since almost all objects outlive us.
And why I answer, “But I can think!”
I’m not sure, but we’re conversing in French,
and Descarte’s formula is running through my brain,
along with Pascal’s un roseau pensant.
My friend, a young widower, with many lovers,
says, “Think of the babies conceived in that car.”
And the women we pass get comments as well—
“breasts you could get lost in” or “chunky as a tree trunk.”
The one who intercepts us, when we reach la source,
to tell us she’s the owners’ daughter,
smiles at my friend, as all women do,
an ironic smile of suspicion and attraction,
while she smiles more openly at me,
because of my wedding band, or my awkward French?—
as if I’m innocent of the dance of seduction
going on before my eyes. Walking with my friend
is like walking with a cat. He ignores gates,
like this one marked “privée,” and sniffs everything.
No wonder this woman’s dog wanted to chew him to pieces.
Now it rests in her arms, peaceful and enchanted.