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October 2016, vol 12 no 3

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Bill Gottlieb


Late June, and I’m behind on every project, and in debt, and in love. From my office – Mt. St. Helena 12 miles away, its peak like a point the world is making and I’m getting, not getting – I see a stand of the dead, the dead pines the grubs of bark beetles have ravished, needles now spiky brown shrouds. It’s an infestation, a scourge, tree by drought-wearied tree, the larval mouthparts like those of the bloodsucking monsters who entertain me currently on The Strain. Meanwhile, my mental monsters mangle my sister-in-law – if that’s the kindred word this widower wants to use for the woman who wearisomely asked for furnishings back that once belonged to her mother.

You loved the bold and sturdy poses of the wood, loved having the past softly underfoot. I remember you – sitting at your desk above the green and white carpet, widely flying into the worlds of your passions, connections. At the end of the couch where we held hands as you died is the glass-doored, glass-shelved credenza, lit from beneath like a happy heart lights the mind. I didn’t recall that it could be illuminated—until its crystalline dusk was breached by my fiancé, and she asked if I would order a new bulb. New light, to beautify.

Powerwalking up the steep hill today, a raven’s shadow drew my eyes from the gray road to free curves far above the trees. Then this kindest bird circled me to a halo around the sun – to a rainbow wrapping reality in sudden wonder, light split and glinted by the ice of high cirrus, the peaks of the fluted atmosphere. Later, I had to stop to catch my breath, and thought I might vomit in the noon’s blunt heat, my sister-in-law – thyroid out, tired, fat, sad, sad, sad – sticking her distant pins in my new life.

a lawyer’s office
a half-
empty glass
sparkling, flat
I can drink that