There is so little to go on: a pale trembling hand as I stand over you, my finger tracing the words on the page, a foreign language you are learning for a journey without me. You will do fine, I say. You will wrap your tongue around these sounds and be understood, be given what you desire: a loaf of bread, change for your money, an antique doll with violent eyes. Paintings are hanging on walls, behind glass, waiting for you to admire them. Their plaintive beauty will move through you and you will walk back to your hotel through the park I know well. I spent years there walking its bridle path, a gray cat in my arms, moving toward you, blind, in another life.
The Sadness of Clothes
When someone dies, the clothes are so sad. They have outlived
their usefulness and cannot get warm and full.
You talk to the clothes and explain that he is not coming back
as when he showed up immaculately dressed in slacks and plaid jacket
and had that beautiful smile on and you’d talk.
You’d go to get something and come back and he’d be gone.
You explain death to the clothes like that dream.
You tell them how much you miss the spouse
and how much you miss the pet with its little winter sweater.
You tell the worn raincoat that if you talk about it,
you will finally let grief out. The ancients etched the words
for battle and victory onto their shields and then they went out
and fought to the last breath. Words have that kind of power
you remind the clothes that remain in the drawer, arms stubbornly
folded across the chest, or slung across the backs of chairs,
or hanging inside the dark closet. Do with us what you will,
they faintly sigh, as you close the door on them.
He is gone and no one can tell us where.