Melissa Crowe is the author of Dear Terror, Dear Splendor (University of Wisconsin Press, 2019), and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Poetry, Tupelo Quarterly, and Seneca Review, among other journals. She’s co-editor of Beloit Poetry Journal and coordinator of the MFA program in creative writing at UNCW.
What hurt me so terribly
all my life until this moment?
Husband, I didn’t know the beautiful
broad-winged shape riding the air above us
as we lay in the hammock under the loblolly
pines was a buzzard until you told me.
Namer of whatever dark thing hovers,
you too deserve the truth, so when the police
find your father in a slick of blood
and offer no explanation but natural causes,
I say he drank himself to death, thinned
and thinned the skin of his esophagus
until it split. There’s a word in Japanese
we can’t translate though we take a sentence
to try: This is the parting. Singular goodbye
or something like an endless taking leave.
Years ago, you nightwalked the frozen river
between your house and mine, believing
breakage as likely as love. Still a boy, you’d
already reckoned with your slide into the airless
place beneath this place—but I didn’t know it.
Today, sad again to the point of rage, you say
I’m ready to go. The truth is, even I am getting
close. We’re stepping onto ghost glass together
or spooning under talons, some hungry beast.
Not always guests at the feast. The parting,
I might have said, sixteen, holding your electric
hand in movie-theater dark or marrying you under
leaf-cut sky or convulsing beneath your loving,
helpless gaze, our child wrecking through me
into life. Last night I shuddered above you, then—
This is the parting—lay laughing beside you
in our bed. I won’t say stay because you won’t
say you will. If I’m lucky, if I’m brave, we’ll keep
birthing an ending into ravening light.
“ This poem borrows the translation ("This is the parting") from Meg Wolitzer's novel Surrender, Dorothy. ”