A High Bar



I wear my sister’s socks and shoes, her jeans and a heathered purple Ibex hooded wool sweatshirt, a perfect layer for these cooler days.  Other women around my sister have taken scarves, sweaters, jackets, hats, gloves, shoes, socks, shirts and boots and they’re wearing Chris’s clothes too.  Pieces of her scattered across the eastern U.S.  It’s a comfort.

I’m not sad and surprised at my not-sadness and then I’m sad.  Today.  The bright trees, saturated orange and scarlet, russet leaching into the oaks, swatches of yellow that make tunnels of light in the woods, pull at me whenever I’m outside so I go outside a lot.

The farmer across the street has moved the hay feeder to the corner of pasture across the small dirt road from the house so I watch cows most of the day, right out my window or off the porch.  In the evening when the cows hear the tractor leave the barn with a new roll of hay they start to scamper and then gallop towards the feeder, two of the smaller ones butting heads.

“It’s weird, isn’t it,” my friend said to me last night at a poetry reading.  We were talking about readjusting our lives after loss — her mother died not long before Chris.  “We have more time now because someone is dead.”

True.  She doesn’t have her mother to visit everyday, trip after trip to rehab then the nursing home then hospice.  I don’t go to Stow for several days every week.  Being with Chris was the organizing principle of my life for months and I surrendered to it.   Helping the body of someone you love get to the end is so immediate and profound nothing else matters.

So what matters now?  I’m reevaluating what I used to think counted in light of certain death.  Because it is certain for each of us.  I’ve been right up next to it again and it’s a high bar.  What do I want to haul over?


About Grace Mattern

Grace Mattern is a poet, writer, mother, grandmother, partner, friend, family member, gardener, triathlete, hiker and for 30 years was the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She resigned her position at the Coalition on June 15, 2011 in order to concentrate on her writing, while continuing to engage in the movement to end violence against women as a consultant and advisor. Her chapbook Fever of Unknown Origin was published in 2001 and her full-length poetry book The Truth About Death was published in 2012.
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