“Why Our Marriage Works” and “The Widow Sifts Through the Rubble”

“Why Our Marriage Works” and “The Widow Sifts Through the Rubble”
Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

Why Our Marriage Works

You sing songs to the pug in your fake Cantonese

and seem surprised when he doesn’t understand. You make coffee

a party: dark-roasted beans, gleaming French presses, and hand-thrown

mugs plucked from thrift-store shelves. You aren’t pretentious

about fashion, but covet coats like a boy who grew up

always cold. Because once, you gave your good wool coat

to a man in a flop house called the Snake Ranch. You rescue

hummingbird nests blown out of trees and see sculpture

in piles of rubble. Because you love, with equal zeal, begonias

and babies and sheetrock screws. Because you love the world

more than you hate the world. You dislike Christmas

but still twist twigs into wreaths with me. Because everything

you touch – rock or metal or leather or wood –

you shape into beauty. Because you did that

to me. Because we decorate our home with opaque stones

balanced on brass nozzles, and bowls of balled wool, and curly

willow branches hung with blue feathers – pop-up shrines

we build from common objects and we live our life

among them stunned and blessed.

The Widow Sifts Through the Rubble

Any time I had a free hour, I’d drop down

to the basement, try to sort what I wanted

from what I did not. Pulling stuff from closets

and drawers and cobwebbed boxes seemed

to create more stuff: tall teetering piles

labeled with intended destinations.

Goodwill. Garage sale. Jan & Pat.

Stuff overflowed into the crevices

of my life, plugging up my time.

You know what I mean. You stare

at these things from another life,

still yours: yearbooks and diplomas.

Vacation photos. Lace hankies

from dead aunties. Treasure maps

from your past, blocking your future.

How did you get here? You search

the piles for clues, find them

in the florid penmanship of 3rd grade

teachers (Student shows promise

but needs to be more assertive),

in the digits of phone numbers

scrawled on cardboard coasters,

in the marriage license signed

by obliging strangers on a golden

fall day on Mt. Hood. Your beloved

world is outdated, frayed, and faded.

Parts of it smell musty. You find

your mind is a half-filled sack containing

old receipts from Home Depot, two family

Bibles (yours and his), endless coils

of electrical cords, uncirculated

coins from the U.S. Mint. I tried

to remember the life I led, the one

that required a pink pageboy wig,

white leather boots, and gossamer wings.

I tried to remember how he shined

his shoes on Sunday nights, buffed them

with the horsehair brush sitting heavy

in my hands. Over & over,

I sifted through old papers – birthday

cards, car titles, sheet music, love

letters. The piles shifted

and bulged like tectonic plates.

My sister helped sometimes, tossing

his woodworking magazines and

muddy running shoes into the trash.

There, they spooned with eyeglass cases,

broken kites, half-used bottles

of hotel shampoo. Within an hour,

she’d exhume bare floor, cutting off

my protests about social need

and landfills. (Poor people don’t want

this shit either, honey.)

I’d begin again in earnest. Another roll

of blue masking tape. Another set

of garbage bags and boxes. Reaching

through dust to more dust. Excavating

the hardest things: the yellowed

wedding dress, the piece of copper

stove pipe with fluted cap and perfect

green patina that he began to fashion

into a birdhouse for me. The walnut

cane he carved himself, the heart-

shaped pillow from the ICU,

compression socks nested

in an unopened package. Just yesterday,

it seemed, he stocked his cigar box

with sacred objects – feathers

and shells we picked up at Hug Point,

the soft lock of hair he snipped

from my head. I looked for meaning

in all that stuff. But none emerged.

Unless you count the postcard

I found and kept: Mount St. Helens,

before the explosion. Shimmering

water. Wildflower meadows. The magma

below, seeking cracks.

About the Author

Linda Drach

Linda Drach facilitates community writing workshops through the nonprofit Write Around Portland. In 2018, she was awarded a writing residency at PLAYA Summer Lake, in Oregon's Outback. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in CALYX, Clackamas Literary Review, the Timberline Review, the Hole in the Head Review, and VoiceCatcher.