My long-dead ex-husband’s wife died this week.
That much I know. What else? She told
no one she was sick, didn’t go to the doctor,
finally collapsed more or less alone
into the Bermuda Triangle of her own wishes.
Why would someone want to disappear before she
disappears? I will never know this, either. Things
feel like my fault, my deliberate lack of attention.
We cast ourselves out of our lives,
there’s a crumbling at the edge of what we know,
a bit of satisfaction, as if we’d left shore with its
factories and smells, and climbed the mast.
Nothing in sight but horizon and fresh air.
We take in a breath, a breath made of elemental
parts of a thousand thousand souls we’ll never
get rid of, that will be reincarnated into innumerable
more life-forms until the sun and Earth die a cold
death a few billion years from now. But that won’t be the end
for those atoms, even the atoms of those
we left with anguish and tears, even those we
turned around in the driveway for, to hear their
pleading to try again. Nearby supernovae will shock
and stir the dusty remnants of the solar system
and new solar systems will form around it.
Some of the atoms will make up the bodies
of newborn life-forms on the new planets.
Many of my own atoms may have been part of
alien organisms that lived on some long-ago-
destroyed planet. I am sad for them,
the ones who live forever, ignored in me,
and the ones who’d longed to get free.
Say dock, dock: it’s just a hollow
of itself, the way the foot
echoes between wood and water,
the plank, plank of it
like piano keys, growing hollower
farther out under the stars.
Listen to the way dock’s closed in
by the tongue on one side, pushed out
at the far end toward the lake
with a duck-sound, quack-
sound, where they congregate
for crumbs. It’s even a tongue,
itself, saying nothing but
what you bump against it.
Or an arm, reaching out. Here
you’re willing to make yourself sociable,
declare yourself separate
from the trees. “Dock here,”
you offer. Here is a place
to stop. And it’s true. Indeed,
I have to stop at the end,
and think. The reason
for walking out here is
how the end goes blunt.
You feel your blood turn back
toward the heart, but
for an instant, you imagine,
it longs to keep moving out,
like Roadrunner at the edge of a cliff,
keeping on with nothing built
to hold him up. Turning back,
I carve a cul-de-sac in the air, which is a comfort, and a sadness.