A hole was to dig,
Her heart was to break.
He’d wanted this, a hill,
A tree, wide of trunk,
Branches like mother’s arms
Gathering the stones close
To a bosom damp with milk,
Offered often, with a smile.
But then he’d died in autumn,
In the late dystopic weeks,
And the tree looked to break,
Like her heart, and would not,
She saw, nurture man or child,
Earth or even tree, for months.
He’d been foolish, she thought.
She told him so, at night, in bed,
When she’d turned off her light
And swung her body crosswise,
Uprooting sheets and blankets
To snake themselves ’round
Her pale and freckled calves.
Better this than one side
Of their bed tidy with disuse
Painting scenes, the first of loss
And starched abandonment.
(Over breakfast one morning —
It must have been July —
She took two breaths for bravery,
Swallowed, and wondered why.
She herself preferred the other,
Ashes to ashes, et cetera.
He’d shrugged, then. I want a
View, he’d sighed, and that
Was that, as it often was.
She forbore interrogating him,
Did not cry out, To see
With whose eyes? It just
Stopped mattering, soon after,
When his voice grew weak,
When his skin turned clammy blue —
An awful chilly venous shade.)
No, she would not visit that
Stone, that hill, that tree,
Its skeletal limbs. Instead
She collected kindling for
A fire, then swept its ashes clean
Into paper bags, careful, in case
They were his. And one day,
December 15th, she guessed,
She marched to the back yard,
Where he and she had sat for years,
Talking, fighting, laughing, aging,
And dumped them all, full stop.
The wind carried them back to her,
Scraping her eyes, choking her
Until she coughed to spit them out.
But it was done. Late that night,
She bathed and powdered fresh,
Turned sideways on the mattress,
Spoke of the scattering. And there
He was, listening, righting blankets
Before sweetly pulling them up and
Covering her curving, bony spine —
Patting her then, until she slept,
Finally, a heavy, dreamless sleep,
Of the dead, one might say,
Rightly so, quite rightly so.
for flutter on the occasion of her wedding, not because the poem concerns loss, but because it concerns love most keenly felt