Everything she wrote to me was in a stray language: the things she lost, the moments she stopped reaching for. I knew she held her breath when she described how the light scattered in the summer kitchen and lit up the morning dust, the dim aromas of a particular breakfast of eggs and boiled potatoes and fresh cream, the dread of the bedroom walls that were closing in, too close, too soon.

A husband, once, or so she cited. Her tales were unreliable, but she told them with such vigor, such conviction! He was thrown from a horse named Tristitia, a tall beast of 18-hands. There were no photographs of either horse or man, no wedding portraits, no markers of his passing. And how she mourned him. For all those years, she mourned a man she would not name, a man no one else could remember.

Her poetry was slight but longing: delicate lines written in pencil, sometimes scrawled so softly that they were impossible to read. She knew them by heart, could recite them, days and years after having written them. Hundreds of pages, locked away, and hidden. She remembered the words, but not where she had buried them. Or burned them. She knew them well, and, over time, I could almost recite them with her.

Everything she wrote to me was in a stray language: the things she suffered, the moments she ached for. And I, alone, continue to look for them, on her behalf and my own.




We come from solid work stock, you and I,

and we walk these final miles with tired backs,

towards a paper-plated Friday night.

You search your purse for your keys while I

watch a slim parchment of moon

dissolve across the snow.

There are clues here, I think, to everything.

The accumulation of our wet breaths etches

a communiqué across the front door window,

but you erase it

with the heel of your glove before

it can be jotted down on one of our sagging calendars.

We wear the same boots we wore six years ago,

the same scarves,

through the same tired hallway,

you first,

and I close the door behind us and

the snow melt is already turning brown.

You glance

at the litter of words I scribbled this morning

on the old motel stationery beside the phone.

I forgot what I wrote,

maybe a dentist appointment, maybe a confession,

maybe a dream I wanted to tell you about

before I forgot.

Here in the darkness, we compare our days

with clumsy smiles and cold hands.

We come from solid work stock, you and I,

and the miles have fallen behind us.