Two Women, Two Paths by David Adès


One woman is holding on
white-knuckled hard.

She wears her grief
buttoned up tight
holding herself within it
fearing her own disappearance
fearing air on skin
fearing the world beyond him.

She takes it to her bed
as talisman
as substitute
as protector
to ward off his absent warmth at night.

She is widow to memories of him.
They are a temple,
a shrine she visits every day
bearing longing
bearing words
bearing despair.

Her eyes
still fix upon the spaces he once occupied
as if to prise an image
a shadow
some vestige of his presence lingering still.

She stands on the spot
unable or unwilling to move
and those that surrounded her at first
with empathy
with compassion
with solicitude
are as thoughts drifting away.


A second woman is heavy sliding
letting go.

She is alone
after sixty years of marriage
after caring for him a dozen stroked-out years
unable now to care for herself.

She has lost interest
in counting her losses
in the search for meaning
in the daily news.

She has given up thoughts
of returning home
of seeing her second grandchild married
of holding her great grandchild
for the first time.

She is shrinking into herself
finding the path to disappearance
abandoning desire
abandoning food
abandoning mobility.

She is moving on
finding the way back to him
step by step
while those who love her
argue and cajole
urge her
to get up and walk
to eat a little more
to bend her will
and stay.