“The magician seemed to promise that something torn to bits might be mended without a seam, that what had vanished might reappear, that a scattered handful of doves or dust might be reunited by a word, that a paper rose consumed by fire could be made to bloom from a pile of ash. But everyone knew that it was only an illusion. The true magic of this broken world lay in the ability of things it contained to vanish, to become so thoroughly lost, that they might never have existed in the first place.”
—Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
“The wind is gone.
—Anne Carson, “The Glass Essay”
I. BUSTENI (1)
The corners of the room lampshade every shadow.
Full of answers, they resemble everything.
When the police found your pack I was afraid to open it.
You’d filled it that morning with clothes and books for the week.
I untied from the handle a bandana we’d bought in town that morning.
At night it reaches down from the closet shelf like spring growth.
A vine reaching in every direction.
In photos the knapsack is as long as your torso.
Outside the Orthodox chapel: colleagues, friends, priests, a diplomat.
Wreaths of fresh flowers, candle wicks sunk in wax.
The mortician dresses your body in khakis and a silk blouse.
Nothing that we transform becomes you.
I wash your bandana and wear it as I walk without you.
A city that could be any city: unexceptional except for the arriving.
We do it alone, Katie; we mark among the living ghosts of those we love.
We never quite make our peace.
The first time we visited you said your niece drew remarkable horses.
Her sister bit strangers. A nephew would soon turn one.
The biter loved to be thrown in the deep end.
The budding hippologist watched carefully that whole first visit.
Improvising riddles, we entertained the neighbors’ kids.
What is the difference between a female wizard and a male witch?
Your brother kept whiskey in the basement with his amps.
Trying the steel, then the Spanish classical; clumsily strumming one chord.
Your sister-in-law mixed her signature cocktail, The LaPlantini.
Outsiders to the clan, she and I bonded over movies, books, music, brantówka.
The biter woke you one afternoon, when Ed and I went to a movie.
“So, Katie, is John your boyfriend?”
Making good time back to Chicago I always hoped we’d hit traffic.
Car Wheels on a Gravel Road re-starting outside Lafayette.
Tonight, Chase shreds Pat Benatar on Guitar Hero.
Beth opens boxes and separates your clothes by size.
We make bundles to take to your sister, her kids, your mother.
Chloe, the biter, and Emma, the hippologist, claim sweatshirts; Chase sleeps in your ringer t’s.
Later, when the house is quiet, I steal lines from other elegies
In another room, Keri Te Kenawa is singing the Laudate Dominum of Mozart, very faintly.
Uptown, late autumn, three blocks from our first apartment.
In a side room, the tattoo artist shrugs, “We get a lot of widowers.”
Ink in the skin, rounding the shoulder in slender branches.
A tree with no leaves shades a green apple.
Cut back where an elm over-hangs the path, short grass crowds the lake.
Missing one friend’s wedding to miss another.
Ivy fills in the outfield walls. The Cubs win six in a row.
All September: hysterical to sing the seventh-inning stretch.
The Kopi Café stocks its signature carrot cake.
This year, on your birthday, it comes topped with a whipped-cream carrot.
Anonymous: “Sorrow for a husband is like a pain in the elbow, sharp and short.”
Plath: “Widow. The word consumes itself.”
All spring, I wake half a dozen times in the night.
I wait for dreams; in them, I never know what to say.
IX. INDIANAPOLIS (2)
The scent of rain fills this small room beside the garage.
Why sleep all afternoon? Why sleep at all if I return to my body?
Indiana floods. Pumpkin vines poke through the soil.
Chloe weeds her garden and plants our wedding flower by the door.
The old dog: how its diminished hip fills with fluid.
Listing so badly the body can make no accommodation.
Chasing solemn libations with cheap beer.
What could we pour into the soil that will not soak through?
Searching the grocery aisles for a box of your favorite crackers.
Panis angelicus fit panis hominum.
On the wall near my desk we tape ten photographs.
Thunderstorms streak the windows; your brother’s house shakes.
The night you died, I held your body, terrified and numb.
There is no arrival or departure; I grieve for everything.
XI. SAN FRANCISCO
Divinity holds the soul like an ice sculpture; all shape falls away.
One by one, the neighbors return home and curtain their magnificent windows.
At the pool, a friend of Ed and Beth’s says now is the time to buy land.
On a city map, I circle neighborhoods near the homes of friends.
Artillery leveled city blocks to firebreak the 1906 Earthquake.
Unable to channel the sea, they built fire upon fire until it consumed itself.
There are many names for the logic and power of symbols.
We return to storage your most cherished possessions.
Hidden in the Tea Garden: sculptures and bridges.
I sip oolong with a friend where two paths converge across the water.
Reading Thich Nhat Hanh, I understand there is no absolute truth.
I accept that sorrow is only one manifestation of love.
In Bangladesh, all summer, we rode night buses through silent villages.
In monsoon season, on a single-lane highway, the drivers always made good time.
Driving west, I will cross plains, badlands, hills, mountains, beach.
I will stay with friends in cities we never visited together.
There is no season for grief, no year, no beginning or end to sorrow.
Reverent, when we say your name, love holds the rift a while.