Poetry: The Seven: An Occurrences Thereof by Marsha Larsen

“Beauty is life’s only holiness / And the widow sits calmly / Satisfied”—and we knew we were publishing this beautiful, moving poem from the talented Marsha Larsen. Sink in, enjoy.


The Seven: And Occurrences Thereof

– for Felice

At first the widow
Convinced herself he had
Merely gone down for coffee
To the cafeteria where
Hospital gowns are OK.
Then he probably left
In disgust for Starbucks.
Where he no doubt ran into
Pals who asked him
To drive uptown and help
Pick up their car.
She recalls it was
A lovely Indian summer day
So evidently he decided
To drive farther north
For the foliage
In case it was turning.
The car must’ve broken down
(A disgrace—it had just
Been at the mechanic’s)
And he was rescued by
A United Van Lines driver
Who was deadheading
Back to Boston.
For convenience
He was dropped at Logan
Where somehow he coaxed
Security into letting him
Board for Fez.
He’s a persuasive man.
And he’s wanted to tour
After weeks
She’s put him high
In the Atlas Mountains.
Without his sweater.

In bed
But she isn’t sleeping
As the second full moon since widowhood
Shines, a harvest moon.
Her doctor says she should rise
If she isn’t sleeping.
She shifts to shadow, his side.
The cat moves away
Then jumps to the floor.
She should change the sheets.
A thought unendurable till now.
Marked with his scent
They are all she’s had left.
She rises, strips the bed
And presses the bundle against herself
On the way to the laundry room.
Later she will stand
In the nude outside
Hanging sheets on the line
In light bright enough
To burn.

The widow is tempted
To believe in god again
To indulge
Her desire to damn someone.
A Catholic friend believes
God is only busy and
Bad things happen
In lapses of his attention:
Death for example.
Simple to someone like god
Like a glass
Knocked off a counter
And then
The bewildering quiet.
But the widow wants
A deliberate god
The Michelangelo god
Adorning the Sistine ceiling
The god who takes
Credit for everything
Down to the spark of life.
She remembers that ridiculous
Depiction of god
Creating a being
Who’s already there.
If she’d been Adam
She’d have bit that finger
Down to the frank
And satiating bone.

The widow terminates
No more movies
Without him.
No more buying club.
She shops for just herself.
No more book-of-the-months.
She reads short articles now.
But she pared down
The magazines, the ones
She read aloud to him
After his eyesight failed.
No UBS or Charles Schwab.
She has opted for liquidity.
No internet or email.
The computer scares her so.
The pencil cactus starves
For fertilizer.
The angel-wing begonia too.
The cat he nicknamed Muriel
For the talkiest of their friends
Calls and calls for food
As she considers
An end to the exhausted days.

The widow’s at the door
Where her mind has been a dark room
Close with the scent of lilies.
She steps outside
As a storm passes to the east.
The setting sun constructs
The arch of a rainbow.
She has wondered before about
Span and vault
And she sees now they depend upon
The direction of light and
The distance of rain.
Birds come out.
They are ravens
She knows by their notched tails.
She has wondered about them too
Whether a need for camouflage
Is mocked by their blackness
Contrasted against the heavens.
But as they turn toward the sun
They disappear into the shine
Of their own gloss:
From a tilt of the wings
Toward a source of light
For a moment
In the unrelenting openness.

The widow’s meadow
Is immense
but not indefinite, the verge
critical cover
for twilight beings shuttling
from the hunt.
Winter discourages
trees along the stream,
but come summer heat
hikers will strip
and cleanse in shaded water:
the way her children
after she’s dead
will eventually call her Felice
as if she’d merely been a friend.
Otherwise she has no expectations.
She has not fled
from her grief or withdrawn:
the way the meadow (itself
steadfast as ritual)
in fog loses surroundings.
She is in her complexity
mysterious as breath:
pilgrim on two paths
that lead beyond,
the way that’s wide as a meadow
and the way
that’s deep as a grave.

The widow sits calmly
Having watered his garden
Deep to the roots
To keep them alive in this
Unseasonable winter.
One hand clasped around
A coffee mug, she watches
Her cigarette burn, the smoke
Uneven wisps
On warm currents of air.
She feels sorry for this
Incongruous weather
The late day itself
A melancholy demeanor
As though the natural elements
Mourn for themselves
As they usually are in December.
The moon rises, night’s
Traveling exhibit.
To her it’s always been art
Never a place
With a far side and a near.
She remembers a night
Before he died
When they saw a buck
Leading his harem across the road.
Lit by headlights, they moved
As if to choreography
Especially the buck
Mitered with twelve-point regalia.
Watching them
Was her genuflection.
Beauty is life’s only holiness
And the widow sits calmly
Blessed with his garden
And its promise for the spring
She will keep.


Marsha Larsen

Marsha Larsen is a poet and essayist, a writer for sixty-five years, since the age of seven (you do the math). While she was an undergraduate at Penn State, as an adult returner, she received the school's Katey Lehman Creative Writing Award for her poetry (Hayden Carruth, judge). She is a graduate of the MFA program of Vermont College. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Puerto del Sol, and other literary magazines. After twenty years of early retirement in Santa Fe, NM, she now lives in a retirement community near Chapel Hill, NC, with her husband, Cliff; and pet-therapy dog (a Frenchy), Roy, with whom she regularly pays visits to her non-ambulatory fellow residents. She will continue to be a writer as far into the future as possible.

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