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October 2014, vol 10 no 3

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Bill Gottlieb

Never Amounted

Clear Lake, 10 days before your 60th birthday

Today I'm in the bank to cash a check made out to you, a check in an envelope I'd relegated to the floor, to a pile of bills from your health plan I knew were paid—one bill reviving the procedure where the cyclopic scope couldn't pass a vital valve, one reminding me of the man in the white gown who grouted your guts with a stent to save your life, and didn't. I wince when the manager calls me next-of-kin, as if I were applying for a license to grieve. But why not say that drained phrase. In fact, next sounds too near. You're not my wife anymore, you're a stranger, sort of, far off as a star, your light pure past, and memory a poor beam through that mob of blank darkening. I leave the bank and walk toward the lake, the volcano, fire lost and lovely above the day's dancing floor of water. We were married up there, three hundred eighty-four days before you died, seventeen years after we met. Numbers are mobbing me too, it seems, the months like eight crows around a coasting hawk, the days like toppling dominos of mourning, in casket-black, with ghostly eyes—the current countdowns to when you were born, to when you exhaled and were gone, born on the last day of a hot month, gone in winter's beginning. I sit waterside for a while and see it all again. The scythe-like shadow of a paraglider spooks me as I stroll away from the littered lakeshore where two days after you died I cried your name once to no one and…

a plunk
of heron
pinned food