When you aren’t home and I am left I talk to your wife in the kitchen
with the artifacts, the furniture I pull a chair up to her urn
from your past life. I tell myself I like to think that we get along
that there is beauty in sad endings.
The outline of her silhouette flickers in the moments where she lived.
I bump my knee against the monuments of that life left on the hallway table.
Her friends are still talking about you.
What can I say?
Instead I think of the wicker basket full of soy sauce and hot mustard she kept on top of the microwave. How unlike we are.
I find your words scripted in the shadowed corners of drawers all over my lover’s house. Your handwriting threatens to ruin everything, but not in a tangible way. I find the fragments and begin building—
You recorded a tape, the spine labeled in sharpie, “my schooling,” but you only speak of the illness in a clipped voice that begs questions. I listen hardest when there is a thump against the microphone. You don’t say that everything is going to be okay.
I put your voice back in the nightstand among lost keys and notes you wrote in order not to forget.
I pull out a pair of your jeans to see what size you wore and carelessly fondle your bust kept on the top of the refrigerator. I shove your boxes behind the door and find your winter coat in the closet. Slipping my arms into the sleeves, I am glad, guiltlessly, to be living.
Terrified that your fate is my own, or worse—that there is such a thing as fate
Last night I dreamt you said How very sad I am to be missing. I wanted to tell you my fears so you could bury them with you. I wanted to share a joke and to fall into you laughing. But I couldn’t look. Too afraid of what you meant by missing.
There’s a photo of my lover wearing a blue knit sweater, standing on the side
of a ravine flanked by towering pines
in early morning shadows. I find
photos of you on this same day.
You are in a yellow dress and wide strapped sandals.
He is hounding the best angle to capture
how deep the forest, how impenetrable, while keeping you
in the frame.
In each you look amused, sloppily posing against a tree,
your arm above your head, swooning,
Sharla Yates is a poet and writer from the Pacific Northwest, currently living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is working on a short story collection Heavy, while finishing her MFA at Chatham University. Her poetry manuscript “What I Would Say If We Were To Drown Tonight In The Ocean” was a finalist for the 2015 Villa Paper Nautilus contest. She owns no pets, but dreams of birds.