Thursday, August 17, 2006


The Rest of Our Marriage Will Be Better

Always the weather,
writing its book of the world,
returns you to me.
Ordinary days were best,
when we worked over poems
in our separate rooms.
I remember watching you gaze
out the January window
into the garden of snow
and ice, your face rapt
as you imagined burgundy lilies.

Your presence in this house
is almost as enormous and
painful as your absence.

-Donald Hall

Seven days ago I was painfully present in our house. I was supposed to be absent; present on the 5 p.m. seven train. I was four hours and 15 minutes late: an eight hour slumber had turned into a 15 hour haze.

Jennifer answered my belated call her heart quick, her eyes wet. Her voice seemed unsteady. She saw who it was just as her hand turned the doorknob of apartment B3. An evening out with friends turned into a night of desperation and frantic calling, fear and funeral planning.

Instead of a perfectly lovely evening of being present together, Jennifer was alone on the train planning a traditional Mennonite funeral with no preservatives (she wouldn’t have wanted any). She was considering a future in a cabin surrounded by quiescent snow, an attic in suburban Ohio, or returning to the primitive heat of her childhood in the company of her one-pound-less sister. She thought my college friend Chad would want to know.

But I wasn’t dead. I was just consciously absent and then embarrassingly, apologetically, present: too late. Jennifer was happy to see me. She felt that from now on our marriage would be even better. The future looks bright. Last week the sky turned its deepest blue of the year .


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