The Entire Act of Sorrow
by Taylor Mali from allpoetry.com
Because men murder their wives every day,
Because when a woman dies and it looks like a tragic accident,
A botched burglary or even, in fact, especially a suicide,
It too often turns out to have been her husband,
I wonder if when the detective called me to tell what happened to Rebecca –
“It seems your wife has taken her own life,” those were the words he used,
Seems and taken her own life,
Not ‘killed herself’ or ‘committed suicide,’ instead
And nothing more than seems, even though she was dead,
I wonder if as I began to cry the tears I never cried when first my father
And then even my mother died,
I wonder if he was secretly taping my every word, my breathing,
The entire act of sorrow.
For playback at some future date,
Just to see if I sounded like an innocent man.
Because later, after the services,
After the shrine of flowers and candles disappeared
As suddenly as it had bloomed on the sidewalk.
After the medical examiner made her final ruling
And I was allowed to break the tape that sealed our apartment
And walk in on her last night,
The scene of the crime,
Untouched except for the window from which she had jumped,
Now closed. But everything else,
The small and final stones of her ritual still lying in a cross on the floor.
Goldfish floating dead in the fish tank.
Even as I bagged and gave away her clothes,
Invited her friends to take what fit if they could to remember.
I wonder if I still, or ever was, a suspect in her murder.
I think sometimes, I should have been.
I don’t mean that I was there, or opened the window for her,
Gathered her screaming in my arms and let her go,
But rather by the small, sad cloud that hung over her
And which rained stinging black and bitter tears on her
Daughter of the Holocaust head,
I knew that she would one day do this.
Even – and I cannot stand myself for saying so,
Even hoped she would
In the same outrageous secret way you hope a dog –
Like our dog, the one she picked out herself,
Because he cowered in the back of his cage
As though he did not expect to be saved from the shelter –
In the very same way you hope to God this dog will die,
Before you have to put him down.