Your first anniversary was a punchline in disguise.
Even now, Anna never lets you live it down. Not that
you’d ever accused yourself of being romantic, but
candlelit snacks in front of the TV was not the way to go.
She said, mercilessly soft, baby, tell me this is a joke.
I don’t give a lick about no goddamn Superbowl.
She didn’t understand why this intimacy missed the mark,
she didn’t know what it meant, that you’d never watched a Superbowl
while holding hands. God bless her,
you never lived it down.
She’s been dead fourteen years now,
and every anniversary grows quieter.
Your family’s learned by now not to call you today.
They don’t drop by. They think you’re too young
to talk to yourself.
It ain’t dementia. You’re only seventy, and can recall
your first crush’s middle name on command.
Hell, some days you wake up laughing,
’cause you ain’t in no home, you ain’t no kinda feeble.
You remember everything. You remember
the Thanksgiving when Anna was so mad
she called everyone to the table and the turkey was on fire.
You know sometimes you were hell in a bow tie. You figure
the only reason she didn’t divorce you was ’cause she could
kill you slower by staying. Dear god, those nights her jawline was a steak knife.
The only one that understands now is your granddaughter, Lizzie.
Her husband was killed in action,
and next to his stone she laid her own name.
You remember when she cornered you at the wake, asked you point blank
that if she had to wait 50 years how would she make it?
You wanted to tell her… how her smell hits you out of nowhere,
how a heat fills your chest every time you break down.
You wanted to tell her that walking down
the stairs is a gauntlet, that spreading butter on bread tightens your throat,
that every expired prescription is a siren,
that pneumonia is barely a rainstorm away.
And you did tell her.
All of it.
Then, you told her about the Superbowl, about the turkey,
how Anna almost took your bet to flash that cop,
about the time she heard you reading the kids a goodnight story
and knew you were tipsy, could only giggle as the little mermaid
got chewed up by a shark.
You told her to live slowly, that every Friday is another year,
that all the lonely people will tell you you’re crazy.
You told her to go to sleep that night,
rest your arm where he was, and don’t be surprised to wake up
shivering, her blanket on the other side of the bed.
You call her every Friday, just to make sure you’re here.
One more year, she says.
You nod, hang up.