Love Letters

There is a sound called keening which the dictionary defines as a “wailing lament for the dead.” Once you have heard it, you will never mistake it for the cry of any other kind of grief. Keening. That sound my mouth made two years ago on March 2nd when she called and told me he was dead. How each time it is loosed from my chest it seems a kind of otherworldly thing I’ve no control over. There is nothing safe about that sound. Nothing kind.

Nothing kind, like the weather that winter my husband froze at the bottom of the steps outside our home. This morning I drove on a road that had become ice from what seemed a kind of near spring, frozen overnight. I drove so slowly it felt almost like I wasn’t moving, and when I did, it was with the uneven slide of tires that barely found purchase on the road. The other drivers and I inched our cars around the two stalled semis, past the car in the ditch, in an uneasy near synchronous motion, that, viewed from the sky, might have seemed like an agility test, children in a gym weaving in and out through the orange cones, their lungs filling with breath, their legs pumping with precision. By afternoon everything had melted, water running into ditches and drainpipes and grass beds haphazardly, like the tears that wouldn’t stop running down my face.

I never wrote him love letters. I used instead my hands, all those meals I made and plated, the socks I bought at the store when his had holes. The favorite hat I scoured the internet to find when he lost the first one in the snow. The out of print cd to complete his collection. A hundred times I let him tell me the same story and didn’t interrupt to say I’d heard it before. A hundred times in concert halls, hearing bands I let him pick. A hundred sitcom episodes I sat through, next to him on the couch. A hundred different ways I told him that l loved him without using words at all.

I didn’t write him love letters. Instead I used my body, to birth his child. My mouth, to call him mine. I used instead my hands, to hold him, to help him, my words, to make him art. I made him art, but I couldn’t make him stay, and now it seems that I can’t stop writing them, these letters to the dead proclaiming all my useless love. Because he died thinking that I didn’t. And that is the part that wounds—like the knife which splits things apart, it is sharp-edged, keen, a kind of endless grief. Nothing kind.

 

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