It was late, & Mary, I thought, was already asleep when I figured to make another stab at cleaning that insufferably cluttered desk where I write my poems before turning in for the night. But when I whispered, “Honey, sleep well,” certain she wouldn’t hear me, she unexpectedly opened her eyes, & by way of explaining why she was lying awake said, in a voice weighted with grief, that last night Ivan had come back for a visit. I nodded, mumbling something or other to let her know that I understood, & watched as her eyes closed again & she drifted uneasily into that world that is even stranger than this one, that world into which those who have left us for good sometimes return. Of course I was taken aback, given how many years ago all of that was: Ivan, her beloved companion & solace in that Ebers Street place those three years I was gone — that feisty, game, affable cat who was with us still when we were together again, in those houses we rented in Lakeside & Santee, & then up here in this tiny place in the hills in that final year of his life, by then an old, scraggly tom, riddled with cancer, hobbling about on three legs. Ivan, one more small grief that the heart pretends it can bear. I clicked off the light, letting her sleep, & walked down the hallway into this unkempt room, my so-called study, this jumble of books & papers & half-finished poems. Yes, painful for sure, but a gift nonetheless, a visit like that from someone she’d loved with such unbroken devotion — Ivan, who’d managed somehow to find his way back to this house & curl up beside her once again, if ever so briefly — is what I was thinking as I sat myself down here at this desk that I’m always planning to clean & wrote this.