July 26, 2013

M

FOR THOSE WHO NEVER KNOW WHAT TO SAY TO WIDOWS

Two months after the funeral, leave your wife and two teenage sons, drive fourteen hours straight from Eagle to walk up our porch unannounced. Open the garage door the way people used to. The remote is broken. Fix it. Take four truckloads of scrap lumber, crumbling drywall, and junk appliances to the dump. Cook a chili so fine we forget our lost appetites. Open a bottle of anything that costs less than a sympathy card. Lie behind us on the futon. Touch us, because other than one 20-minute appointment with a gynecologist’s plastic speculum, we’ve gone from being touched all the time to being held as if we’d spent half a hot day cleaning Cutthroats from Gore Creek. Tell us that story. Again. The one where you and Nick drop acid and drive his flat-black Valiant with no dashboard to Wyoming to hunt jackalope. In a blizzard. About getting to milk one because the females sleep belly up. Say, No, honest. Waking up in the Casper rescue mission wearing other people’s clothes. Say, Hey, it was monomyth, babe. Sleep in the guest room. After breakfast, tie down Nick’s ’74 Suzuki in your truckbed with red ratchet straps, slap the seat once she’s secure. Say, He was an original. Kiss us like you mean something, even though you don’t know what the hell that is. Maybe it’s just three decades of Nick, and we’re the last thing that touched him. Take I-80 east. Manage to keep your shit together until Elko, at least.

from Rattle #38, Winter 2012
2012 Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist

[download audio]

___________

M: “Many widows I’ve spoken to have told me that after their husband’s death, they felt a wall had gone up between themselves and the rest of the world. I was locked behind this wall myself, so far from everything I might consider an everyday life. This poem was born of a deep desire to tell the truth, which I believe many widows can’t or won’t do. We know people are afraid of us, afraid of saying the wrong things. This fear as well as the standard platitudes others hide behind often only add bricks to that wall. Somehow my husband’s best friend of 30-plus years knew there aren’t any right words. He simply trusted in our shared grief enough not to fear being real with me. I pray this poem will give people permission to let go of fear, reach through the wall, and have faith in their instincts.”