The Innisfree Poetry Journal
by Sandra Kohler
The Size of Loneliness
We are mapping the beds, their spring,
their early summer bloom, in this garden
which will be our last, my husband and I.
The first blossom on the violet clematis is open,
abloom. Two yellow portulaca. A trio of birds
fly through the garden, sudden, low, too rapid
for me to see what they are. I’m struggling, sad.
My husband looks old suddenly: his stoop, his
slow walk. Spring comes this year with fierce
cold, unrelenting, imperative winds. The crocus
push up, shivering. A friend writes that once,
her husband gravely ill, she felt “a vast loneliness.”
I am gauging the size of loneliness. Some times
I feel small pockets of it, at others I can hold it
in my hand, a pebble. I’ve found it in the heart
of a succulent piece of fruit, a pit, absolute:
it is the stone at the center of my rich days.
In the garden, anemone around the willow
tree are starting to open. The hellebore bloom,
downward-facing. Daffodils up all over, tulips,
lilies. My happiness is overwhelmingly bound
up with my husband, his presence. Together
we map all the beds, sketch in the spring bulbs
on his template. Purple clematis blossoming,
now the rosy one in the driveway, its blooms
gems, smaller than I’d imagined their being.
In a dream, my marriage is breaking up, my
husband’s forgotten something important
to me, a birthday, anniversary? The sheaf
of red roses I’m holding begins to shed petals.
Will a morning ever come when waking up
at daybreak I don’t immediately check to
make sure my husband is breathing, alive,
a morning when he’s here with me in bed and
that’s not what I first think of? I’d settle for
as many mornings as I can imagine of checking
as long as he’s still here, still with me. Now
that the beds are mapped, we plan where to
plant bulbs this fall, daffodils, lilies, small
tulips, the wild ones I love. The loneliness
I am feeling this morning is the size of
those bulbs, round smooth orbs I could
hold in my fist, each full of the future.
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