No, this isn’t a post about sex, or not exactly. “Sex” is the title of a poem in The Truth About Death, which I thought about today because I walked out to the rock featured in the poem, the rock where I’ve built cairns since Eric died, and it was another icy day, like the day almost eight years ago when I first wrote it.
There’s a poem called “Talk” in the book with the lines:
The more universal, the more silence –
death, drugs, sex, money. I talk.
So there is a poem for each of those topics — Death, Drugs, Sex, Money. I don’t know that anyone has ever noticed that, but it was very intentional on my part. Truth telling was my mission in writing the book and if a topic was difficult for people to talk about, I wanted to open a door to the possibility of talk that could lead to truth.
The truth about today is that the poem came to mind not because of sex, or how Eric’s absence continues to inhabit the world, especially on a day when the fog coming across the pastures like an enormous animal grazing on sleet is so thick it makes the nightlight in the hallway outside my study flicker on and off, as if it can’t decide whether it’s night time after all, but because of the ice lace on everything as I walked to the rock. Every twig, bud, bush, branch, berry, weed stalk and blade of glass sticking through the crusty snow like the white whiskers on an old man.
So, the poem. Probably the other three by the end of the week.
I walk to the rock we used in the years the house
had packs of children coming and going
in unpredictable waves and the two mile walk
across the open meadows of the ridge
and into the woods along an old road overhung
by hemlocks, rising into oaks and maples,
was just far enough, to the rock with a ledge
just the right height, a condom and tissue
in your back pocket. Today I start a second cairn,
an ice storm makes lace of the blueberry stems.