Mercury, Venus, the hottest ones first, then Earth, Mars,

the planets’ names slipping from my lips.

those nights in our cramped kitchen,

while my father lit another Camel,

and my mother wiped down the Formica,

Jupiter the largest, Saturn with its rings,

Uranus, a gaseous planet, I whispered,

one of the bright stars in Sister Evelyn’s

third-grade class, ending with Pluto, the farthest.

Soon I would learn the constellations,

the names of their star patterns,

and I would collect nickels for all those facts

which come spilling out

on this April morning—forsythia in full bloom, 

birds crowding at the feeder, and my wife off to work,

leaving me alone with my third cup, thinking about

turning the garden, maybe starting the mower or 

sharpening its blades, Virgo and Ursa Major,

Libra and Centaurus rattling out as I look at three

yards of mulch that need to be spread, remembering

the nine planets have been reduced to eight,

remembering my father raising his glass

of gold beer, saluting me, exhaling blue rings

that bumped against the plaster ceiling

and passed through its pores, that smoke

mixing with minerals in ordinary dirt,

particles of hair, and dead skin cells,

and moving beyond our solar system

in those huge disks of dust

that have no name.