Bio Note: My ex-husband, Ron Madison, to whom I was married for 27 years but with whom I remained close ever after, died on November 15. He was 85 and had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It happened so fast after that! It was a difficult marriage, but our love was deep and enduring. I, and our children, will miss him very much but he remains with us, too. He was a witty man, a lover of words; he was to our lexicon like the Norman Invasion was to the English language—I can't speak for long without coming out with a Ron-ism. These poems reflect the difficult marriage that we had. I'm happy to say that the last several years brought us closer than ever, and that our last words to one another were "I love you."
On our first Christmas together snow covers the sidewalk, the street, the park across the street, the neighbors’ rooftops. We play Scrabble in Russian. I leave you to decipher squiggles in the dictionary and go for a walk in this new white world. I cross the bridge that leads from apartments to houses. Smoke spirals up from chimneys; trees are lit in living room windows. Snowplows still locked in their corrals, snow too high for cars to pass, the squeak of it beneath my boots is the only sound. My feet grow cold and I find myself in a strange new world, can’t retrace my steps in the falling snow. Warm houses turn their backs to me, the white streets hostile. I don’t know how I find our third-floor home across this unfamiliar distance. Up two flights to our tree-level rooms I find you at the kitchen table, setting Cyrillic tiles to form words more unfamiliar than the white streets that finally led me home.
In moonlight I wake in the cold of our bed too anchored to dreaming to look for the blanket I travel the mounded plain between our bodies and find you rising there a far dark mountain Asleep, your skin is cool as the sheets cool as the gulf between us When we wake we touch arms yours a dark fence, heavy holds me in my place Somewhere above this gray morning landscape of plain and mountain our spirits entwine like ribbons of smoke and rising, do what our bodies no longer will
Originally published in Pearl
©2021 Tamara Madison
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