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.