“The Last Diary Entries of Septimus Warren Smith” by Katherine Orr
Like an attic full of books.
Like a gymnasium. Like sorrow.
Everything is always so big.
But I’m not afraid of the silence
that follows what I came to say.
So instead of talking, I watch
my wife work on her bonnets –
feathers and flowers, violets,
vegetables, birds. All the ladies
come to her, now that it’s Spring.
Explosion in the park again
this morning, bits of bodies
close to her buttoned boots,
a terrible, synaptic white
against the lawns, the intricate
lattices and canals of our ears –
We dissolved, deaf, into
park benches and boxwood,
at least I did, and tonight I see
the worry in her face as she
braids last autumn’s bittersweet
into a pearl-edged veil.
She’s not known what to do,
who to turn to and, as I once did,
has trusted those they told her
to trust, she’s emptied her purse
and signed her name and
spelled out mine –
she’s told them where we live –
What else could she do?
Last night, she showed me –
she’d gathered all my little poems
and pictures, placed them in a
swatch of satin and tied them
in a packet with a long silk ribbon
which I untied and together we
looked at them one by one.
And then we sat there
without saying anything.
I swore to protect her
and I am an honorable man
but the doctor is on the stairs –
Once I’m gone, she will – what?
Stand here, slight, among the
tea cups and colors? Three ripe
peaches in the cut-glass bowl,
lace curtains, barely moving.
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