Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
Subscribe and Save up to 45%
You took the crash course, and me along with you
because where else would I be except beside
you? Now I study death with the deliberate
focus you loved. People are afraid of me,
especially couples. I smoke on the porch
in your jacket, making the brown moleskin smell,
watching planes cross the dark sky as they fly
in and out of the airport to the south. I think
about quitting. What do we each know now
that the other doesn’t? And our children,
think of all they know that we didn’t.
I lie in bed and call your name. I get up
and take another pill. I eat cereal standing
on the heating grate in the kitchen,
leaving the milk on the table,
which would annoy you. It’s tomorrow.
I have been reading about the sea,
its deep dark cold, its knowledge.
I have been living with blackness
where you disappeared; clear cold
that burns my hands, aches
my wrists, the hard nothing between us
I try to touch and you have touched
but cannot tell me what to expect.
Some days I don’t have enough time to cry,
and then I miss it. A beaded curtain of rain
hangs from the porch roof; the Johnsons
have Christmas lights up. This week
I’ve been seeing you in the waiting room
in a wheelchair: exhausted, willing your blood
to behave, to qualify for a clinical trial,
any guinea-pig treatment. By then
you were a withered man. If you were alive
we would go kayaking this weekend,
just to say we’d done it in December.
Last November we calculated how many times
we’d made love. Now there is thunder.
I am beginning to listen
to music you never heard.
Your mother and I talk
about where we think you are now,
whether we will ever see you again.
My father hangs his head every time
I talk about missing you. Who else
is thinking about you at this exact moment?
Today is gray and damp; the hunters
are in the woods, deer dart
across the road when I drive at night.
Your hand was blue and cold in mine
as you died. Nothing has changed.
Every day is every day.
On the night of December 6, 2008, the latest Sun lay open on my nightstand to Grace Mattern’s four beautiful and haunting poems about the death of her partner. That same day my partner of thirty years had died unexpectedly. He’d been fine when I’d left him that morning for a hike and lunch with a friend. When I’d come home, I’d found him lying on the floor, unmoving.
I will forever be grateful to Mattern for those poems.