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You were meticulous in your absence

Jan Haag teaches journalism and creative writing at Sacramento City College where she is the chair of the journalism department and advises student publications. She is the author of Companion Spirit, a collection of poems about her husband’s death at the age of 48, published by Amherst Writers & Artists Press. She leads writing groups in Sacramento where the topic of grief and loss often arises. Read more of her beautiful writing here.

—from “Sun Dogs” by Laura N. Mauro in the anthology “Shadows & Tall Trees 7”

It was as if you cleaned up before you left
which, considering that you had to clear
out a whole lifetime, you can consider
a miracle —

as if, while you still had both strength and will,
you went through the whole house,
tossing old string, empty tape dispensers
and rubber bands from the junk drawer,
giving away every hammer, screw, nail
and pliers in your late husband’s garage,
clearing out clothes (even ones that fit)
from closets and drawers.

You even removed all the dishes from
their cherry cupboards, set them out
on the driveway and, noting the satisfying
sounds of breakage, thrust them
into big black plastic bags, along with
whatever residual resentment
still lay deep in your cells — the ones
that had turned on you.

Then, after lugging the bags to the curb,
you turned, brushed off your hands, and
began to quietly disappear, no trace of you
in the leaving, determined not to
bequeath a mess for others
to clean up.

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