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The Death of Jacob

Rachel Teubner


All of us have driven North this far
to see him lying skeletal and faint
in bed with apple sauce wrapped in Mylar.
We stand quiet, as though before a saint
whose last words we'll record, repeat, invoke.
'There's a half-cord of wood outside the shed.
Please, stack it in the cellar. It's red oak,
let it dry until next year.' The bedspread
is white popcorn, something from Marblehead,
barely rumpled, his body like a broom.
Beside him, the last history he'd read,
on Washington's navy. He leaves the room...
    Something rises in our bodies, then fails,
    seeing his folded hands, biting our nails.

All her life she'll be waiting now, thinking
of how they'll meet in heaven. But today
she flips the eggs, stacks them like leaves, sinking
pancakes in butter, blueberries, halfway
furious with the breakfast plates, the yolks
running like sunlight over sausages,
mimosas from pitchers. The broken yokes
of husband-wife be damned - his absence bulges,
so stacks become platters, and pitchers, fountains.
Neighbours chatter, bringing chafing dishes,
leftover Christmas cookies in round tins.
Cards spill out of the mailbox. When she wishes
    for the past, she sees her slim soldier, her groom.
    Nothing can bring him back (their bed, their room).

Rachel Teubner