Terese Svoboda

Niagara

 
The hus­band isn’t breath­ing beside me or else the bright snow falling at that angle against the wind­shield oblit­er­at­ing his chest heave and forc­ing his eyes closed is just how I see it— 

A lazi­ness derails my look­ing over and check­ing. Who wants to explain him being dead all of a sud­den, who wants to process it? He’s not even ill. But my lazi­ness is born of gen­er­al­ized-look­ing-to-get-spe­cif­ic grief, like an atom seek­ing to make salt. I press the car for­ward, toward the snow-slant, our des­ti­na­tion crazy enough for such grief, a place a riv­er falls. Whatever skit­ters in periph­ery could be get­ting spe­cif­ic too, but I don’t adjust the rear view to check.

Then it’s roar roar. Car sta­t­ic caused by turn­ing, by fol­low­ing this too curvy road? Or the grief I’ve come to wit­ness in the riv­er welling up already, or just pre-grief, some prep in nature, the cataract prac­tic­ing?

A pretzel’s still tight in his hand, ready for bit­ing. He bites it, says he must’ve dozed off, what’s that noise?

Tintinnabulation, I say.

He stops chew­ing, taps his work­ing ear.

The car goes on into the roar­ing. I miss some ice. Deer make their way road­side, one with a rack. I see its hoof tempt­ed to lunge, then I’m past him too, into more roar.

The white tail when they turn sig­nals the oth­ers, he says. You could prob­a­bly see white like that in the dark, if you’re a deer want­i­ng sex.

Every sev­en min­utes, I say.

Bambi, he says, giv­ing me the sly eye.

He’s def­i­nite­ly not dead. I’m get­ting hun­gry, I say. He hands me a pret­zel. I bite bite bite. How long should we stay?

You mean should we just turn around and go home once we see it? Sensible, he laughs but let’s wait-and-see.

He used to see me on week nights and half Saturdays and fill my glass with wine in glugs I couldn’t drink. Now he sees water in the base­ment and says I could be elec­tro­cut­ed.

Lots of oth­er cars start thick­en­ing the road­way. There are lanes. Money will soon be giv­en out at a win­dow, exchanged for cold air.

The roar grows.

Did you ever see a won­der of the world? I ask, to keep the grief off.

But he is asleep for real this time.

There’s some fuss in the back­seat, periph­er­al anx­i­ety-pro­vok­ing clam­or I don’t want to acknowl­edge. I press the auto­mat­ic back win­dow clean­er in proxy but can’t help but look around. There are my two grown chil­dren whom I had not noticed in the car in their youth, now in a pose, elbows bent around their heads, talk­ing into their phones. They are wear­ing sort of deer costumes—spotty with chips—as if changed into some­thing more suit­able for the out­side-the-car weath­er, which has turned feath­ery, with spray.

Maybe I stopped the car and picked them up.

My hus­band hands around the bag of pret­zels, all the way back to the back­seat, and then—

There’s a great sigh at the sight­ing, At last, like air escap­ing a tire. I park. It’s the end of motion, which means there’ll be emo­tion to fol­low, some­thing elec­tri­cal gen­er­at­ing out of the flow and then stop.

But hey, no one cries—that’s the up side of grown chil­dren. They prance and they gam­bol and sup­press.

The hus­band is one sec­ond from tak­ing off his seat­belt, he’s ready already to put him­self into line ear­ly. We can’t even see the riv­er from here but there’s plen­ty of spray. Atomized, will it spray grief over every­one? is what I won­der but not aloud.

All of us are out of the car by then, even me, and the weep­ing of the scenery fits me fine.

It’s not like I’m get­ting away.

He and the grown chil­dren are laugh­ing at the bridal par­ty drenched behind cam­eras and the cut out place to put your head in a hole.

My phone rings. Don’t answer it runs between all of us, even the deer-out-of-head­lights chil­dren, just don’t, but its weird do-re-mi, its flash inside my pock­et, its wriggle—I have to.

The grown chil­dren look into the dis­tance with their new licens­es, with their stocks and bonds, with their own dev­as­ta­tions. What I hear, I don’t need to repeat. I stand there at the rail­ing and look over it while they go for sou­venirs. They buy them while I’m not repeat­ing, then they go for the food.

My hus­band slurps at the ice at the bot­tom of his drink. Here we are, he says after a while.

I order two of their best snacks and pock­et the change. It could’ve been my heart, it is so heavy and cold and in so many pieces.

~

Terese Svoboda’s Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical Poet will be pub­lished in February 2016. When The Next Big War Blows Down The Valley: Selected and New Poems appeared in November 2015.