I turn the clean key,
fish his glasses from my shirt pocket,
and place them on a high shelf in the kitchen
before placing anything else.
Because we have no better meaning for death
than infinite consolation
no better use for symbols
than our making objects out of them
and no better quotient for absence
than our perennial oversight
I might think, There.
Now you are watching over me.
But instead, I watch two cardinals
ruffle limbs out the window
admiring their valence without a flock—
the numb dignity I feel, watching.
Remembering, years ago now,
moving back to our empty house
and before all else, finding his glasses
in the unsealed envelope in his room.
Cradling them like a newborn in my fingers,
a thin warped man quivering in each lens.
The mussels hide apologies in mouths of sand.
I press an ear to the water that shuts and shuts
like doors to a threatening heaven
and still can fathom nothing as forever
as the stern, fog-shawled prows of these cliffs
which suggest music, or creators outlived.
Grey ocean, grey nation: I, too, am sorry
to haunt your edge, to hear you wrinkle and churn,
considering where, if not here, to begin again.
Not absolution—just slipping off the earth
into a universe with arms large enough
to gather oceans, and gods, and cliffs.
NATHANIEL LANMAN lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY.