The Widower by Ann Howells

The television speaks in tongues. He sits alone,
black suit, tie slightly loosened:

through the archway, carnival atmosphere
vibrates the dining room: bits of conversation float
You remember Robey, she’s the one …
table bows under stuffed ham, squash casserole,
fried oysters, spoonbread, inevitable gelatin mold
…love the recipe, do you know who…
his daughters fill plates, refill platters,
son is on his third, or maybe ninth, beer
… drive Fords, the whole fam-damily!
grown grandkids catching up and catching on
to each other’s lives –
… Montessori school, if we scrape together…
one, on the stairway landing,
teaches a young niece the chicken dance
…got thermal drawers under her skirt…

The heaping plate someone filled
rests unnoticed on one knee:

through the triple window, frozen drizzle –
more grey on grey
…didn’t like Reverend Combs, not a little bit!
he remembers her agitation first rain after burials,
“Don’t bury me in the rain, please” she implored
…doctor told her, but she didn’t want. . .
but he did: plans were made, services announced
in the paper, then, he woke to sleet
…whichever airport you fly into…
mourners stepped around frozen hummocks,
huddled, shivering, beneath umbrellas
…boots leak, my last three toes are blue…
rain hasn’t let up all day,
and chill is invasive
… likely out of a job by next month…

They’d have been married fifty-eight years
come Veteran’s Day.