We can’t hear each other so we slip outside,
the morning heat mounting to 100. It’s odd
getting to know a friend on the eve of saying goodbye.
We both say I’m sorry for our losses—six months,
nine years ago—and it feels like a salve.
These days my grief is a thick cloud
hanging on the horizon. I turn and turn
down the winding road, but on every hilltop
there it is, waiting. I spend my days
packing books and sweaters into boxes,
wondering how much I can fit into my car
and how much I can afford to mail. At night
my sleep mind replays my father’s dying
but makes it worse: this time he can barely swallow
from the phlegm, and I watch him choke
on a piece of food. I know this means
I’m supposed to reckon with my grief
but I fold away the nightmare too,
bury it in the bottom of a banker’s box.
My father would know:
how to tetris each bag and suitcase,
correcting my haphazard piles
to fit the hatchback’s petite shell.
How to shove even this sorrow
down into a silence unmoving as stone,
a mass metastasized in the liver.
He kept everything: a trigonometry textbook
from high school, the college pipe and the matches,
sixty-six synthetic Nike shirts in every color.
I folded each shirt, sweatpant, pair of socks;
counted and photographed them all
before laying them in the white trash bags,
a procession of small bodies leaving home.
What do I keep and what do I let go of?
How much will it cost in the end?