For My Ex-Husband of Long Ago, on His Deathbed – Barbara Quick

Never mind all that was difficult.
What lingers is a sense of gratitude
for the new friends you brought into my life,
and the new ways you taught me to see:
Turning away from the sunset spread out beneath
the Berkeley Rose Gardens,
away from the place where all the others gazed,
to watch the last light in the treetops behind us,
that tender last light.

I remember how once, walking in the woods with my father,
you grabbed at the empty air and, like a magician,
opened your hand to show us a baby bird,
which flew away, lifting off
from your outstretched fingers.

You were a wizard at making things work,
and simply making things. Astonishing everyone
with your skill. Weighed down, yes,
by the pain you carried inside you.

Time to let go of that now.
What’s left is the treasure of all that beauty:
the midnight sun of the arctic night.
The silence after the little plane that brought us there
flew away. The flamingoes that rose like a pink cloud
from the swamps at dawn in Tarragona—
how you arranged it so that we could witness
the precise moment when they left on their migration
across the Strait of Gibraltar.

I would never erase that decade we spent side by side.

Our job along this road—wouldn’t you say?—
is simply to heal. To heal ourselves. To heal others,
when we can,
by loving them.

When I see a peregrine soar,
I will think of you: unburdened,
young and strong again,
that devilish look in your eye.
Borne aloft and far above
life’s precious complexity.
Launched from your body
into the sky.

Barbara Quick (photo by Stephen Gittens)

Photo by Stephen Gittens

Barabara Quick is a poet and novelist based in the Wine Country of Northern California. Her first novel, NORTHERN EDGE, won the Discover Prize. Her second novel, VIVALDI’S VIRGINS, has been translated into 15 languages. She’s just assembled her first poetry collection (in manuscript), “Fanny Mendelssohn Catches a Glimpse of the Future: Selected Poems, 1979-2016.”