Rehearsal
by Sandra Kohler

The day you leave for a trip on which
you’ll drive treacherous mountain roads alone
for hours, I rehearse losing you, absurd gesture,
useless practice for bearing the unbearable.
The day seems autumnal, or perhaps a cold
late August day when summer’s green’s gone
gray, bleak. It’s June. The farm a mile down
the road is harvesting strawberries. This morning
the husband of a college classmate emails our
list to tell us she died yesterday: news we expected,
he’s watched her agon for weeks, waiting. Still,
he tells us, most of us strangers, “my heart is
broken.” Loss surprises, breaks us every time.

That night I dream I’m watching a car I seem
to be driving stop in front of our house, pick up
a box of strawberries from the curb, drive
around the corner. I expect to hear me climbing
the basement stairs, opening the back door,
become two embodiments of myself, able to be
in two places at once by perceiving I am. Only
when I don’t hear myself come in do I realize
it wasn’t me driving, there aren’t two of me.
Someone’s stolen my car, my strawberries,
my place. The self who’s driven off, taking
the berries, the sweetness of my life, and
won’t come back, has abandoned me to loss.

The next morning a gray blowing world
waits, a green changing world. Clouds full
to bursting or not, weather shifting to storm
or clearing. You phone, you’re on your way.
When you get home hours ahead of time,
surprising and not surprising me, it’s so good
to have you here it’s heartbreaking. I’m
ashamed at thinking this, as if the suffering
of others were a play from which I’ve taken
a few memorized lines. I dish out strawberries,
pour the wine. We’re easy, full of laughter.
In the wings, necessity threatens. I pretend
we are the ones you never hear of, unheroic,
carried off by joy before the ending.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 15, Issue 2.

Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music, appeared in May, 2011 from Word Press. Her previous books are The Ceremonies of Longing (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003), and The Country of Women (Calyx Books, 1995).

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