The flash and fire of trees flaring into autumn, the deep
Purple of African violets a student gave me, the pattern
Of sun and shade on a brick wall, the blonde child sitting with
His family at a patio table at the hotel, the child whom I’ve
never seen before who turns to me and smiles.
How gratified I am for these moments. blessed and perfect
as a new moon, the stars, and the way they carry me
beyond all I’ve lost, the way I keep expecting you to be
there when I come home, the way I forget how empty
a house can be when no one we love is in it, how quiet it is
after years of nurse’s aides and handymen, years of your illness
with all its equipment-Hoya lifts and wheelchairs and urinals
and lift chairs and canes-packed into every room. It is almost
as though I am afraid of the rooms so perfect and empty, rooms
I pass through to answer the door or collect the mail, and the way
I glance sideways into the dining room, surprised each time to see
your bed and equipment are no longer there.
Sometimes I’m blind-sided by beauty, my breath caught
in my throat, my memory of your face bending toward me,
your face lit by lamplight on that corner of New York City,
your eyes that incredible gray-blue, the high cheekbones
of your face. For a moment you came back to me as you
were all those years ago, you walking with John in married
student housing at Rutgers, our son John, a year old
and wide-eyed, and you in your horn-rimmed glasses,
your Rutgers sweatshirt, you walking toward me.
Used by permission of the author.