I.

The dishes in the sink have scabbed over;
This is healing, they tell her.
Her friends guide her elbows as she scours
Mottled pans, scrubbing away the cicatrice;
Wiping out bowls and laving plates,
Their hands gentle with her as cracked porcelain.

At least she’s eating, they say.

In the evening, she pulls the shades
Before the first flicker of the streetlamps,
Curtains drawn like heavy lids
Over tired eyes.

She pulls from the drying rack
A single chipped plate,
And a dented knife and fork,
And sets his place.

On late nights,
He’d always come home hungry.

II.

The phone has finally stopped ringing.
Or, she has stopped answering.

It doesn’t matter.

Condolence is a performance
She is done giving audience.

Sometimes the doorbell rings,
Desperate and insistent.

She keeps the shades drawn tight
And the lamps low.

She disconnects the doorbell.

In the silence, every sound is a whisper;
Every creak is his foot fall,
Returning home.

III.

Something rears in her,
Something with talons,
Something with wings that beat
A cacophony in her chest,
That she cannot subdue.

It tears from her throat
Like a predator, rending
Muscle from bone from sinew.

Her muscles tremble,
Her throat and tongue
Tender; tinged
With the faint copper taste
Of blood.

Part of her,she realizes,
is relieved
to feel something again.

Behind her pulled shades,
The trees in her garden are blooming.
It’s spring again.
Backlit, the shadows of the nesting birds
Loom large; prehistoric beasts,
strangely reptilian.

IV.

It’s not, as her mother would say,
Polite dinner time conversation.

Her sister let’s herself in,
Arms laden down with fresh produce,
Dry pasta, bread still warm from baking.
She sets out plates.

The chop tomatos for a salad,
Boil water for the pasta.

The tension in her sister’s shoulders
Seem to loosen
At every arch of her fork
To her mouth.

At least you’re eating, she says.

You make small talk;
How are the kids?
Is work okay?

Her sister’s eyes slide
Over the empty table setting.
And you, how have you been?

She can’t name the fear
That it will someday stop hurting.

That the day she stops aching for him
He will be well and truly gone.

They sip wine,
Just a step above vinegar.
Neither mentions it.

She pulls back the edge of her shades
To watch her sisters car pull away.

V.

There will always be an ache.
There will always be a wound.

Sometimes, she scratches it,
Picks at it,
Like worrying a scab.

She is starting to see
The silken sheen
Of new skin beneath.
She rises with the sun
And opens the shades.

She leans into the warmth,
A flower deprived too long
Of sunlight
And aching to bloom.