by Patricia Hooper

After I left your body to be burned;
after I drove off
into the morning of maples and elms and oaks
tossing their brilliant cargoes to the ground;
after I drove back
for your sweater, your reading glasses, and the vase of flowers;
after I gave you up
to the minister and the mourners and the busy church
and the newspapers where I would place your name
and the names of the new survivors; after I came
to the graves where your parents lay under moss and stones;
after I let you go
to the grasses, the falling leaves, and the coming winter;
after I came home
to my house in another city and the evening rain
and unpacked the boxes and placed your things with my things,
your clock already on time here, your shining face
in the photograph, and your afghan in which I wrapped
myself as if in your arms; after I slept
and woke; after I saw you as if you sat
in the room, as you often had; after I knew
what to do with myself, I began sorting your books,
your beloved novels, their pages worn by your hands,
and picked up your knitting and saw how in time I could start
the last sleeve and finish it as you had planned,
and unpacked your dishes, setting the flowered plates
on the blue table cloth, just as you always had,
although I stood at a great height looking down
at the room and myself in it; after I saw
how far I had followed you, farther than you would have asked,
I saw I was looking back from the other world.

Published on September 26, 2019