A Meditation on Death in Three Parts, of which there are Push, Anchor, and Pull


Erin E. Carr

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 113 in 2007.

one, push.

she says
to my mind you are a pedestrian
in a pale gray coat who, smoking on his way
to the shop for cigarettes crosses
paths with the wall window ahead
of the table at which i am sitting
and she thinks it is elegant this image
he says
i am buying a new brown suit
something between american cut and european—
he has never been to europe never seen chaucer's
plain slab grave in westminster abbey
or the cautious motion of the february river liffey
in truth he knows nothing of caution
whatever that is, nothing of old english
or that ash to her
means a letter, not dust—side slit three buttons
he says
buttons like he is unhooking the letters
she says yes a pale gray coat
she is fixed on his buttons
the eye hooks
he says
what kind of coat? i was thinking something
between american and european
she says no i
i was thinking something
i was thinking something about a man
in front of a window who stops—she stops
—and tips his hat to me
who has your face
but who speaks like William Langland must have
he says
who is William Langland? what kind
of suits did he wear? she says
in my mind he did not wear suits
he reclined naked with his wife under an oak
tree uncapping acorns which he
placed like hats on her nipples
and every now and again when his wife
heard the sound of the lark
she would tip her hats to him
and they would hold each other and afterwards
he would go on uncapping

two: anchor

as they drove she saw a doe on the side of the road. no motion, only the crane
and thrash of its neck in the air, a pocket of last energy. ductile doe, struck a minute
before their approach. a minute away from stillness. he was late for an interview.
he did not stop, even through the lights. she said the czech have a word
for this. they call it trapit, when you let a being suffer. before his interview he kissed her
between her neck and shoulder, on flesh that corresponded to that of the wounded
deer. she said, the czech have a word for this. he kissed her mouth—it was their first
kiss — he said do they have a word for this?

three. pull.

outside, a squirrel falls from a telephone wire. it begins that way.
he says, a squirrel that cannot hold on. she says,

it is snowing. you see what i mean? later, over coffee, they listen
to two russian women, speaking partners, who articulate so deliberately, so as to carve

every word. they are remarkable in their beauty, the women.
in the direction of these women he says as it were, which she mistakes for rapture.

one of the russian women perches herself on his lap, placing his hat
on her head, tipping it to her russian friend in acknowledgment. and they are lost

in each other now, he and the russian mistress. there is an energy about loss, she says,
remembering the doe, chaucer, the synchronized egress of the said and the unsaid.

there is an energy and a non-energy, the same way one might reach for a bar of soap
in the bath and, as it slips, huddle motionless in the water. perhaps the energy is

by the non-energy, she wants him to say, but it is not on his tongue. and what is on his
tongue, she wants to know. a gaggle of affection? a waspy lust? the taste of oak?—

what does that taste like, anyway?—the energy of loss? he says. do you mean the loss
of energy? no, she says, the creases of a letter discarded, the tarnish of a hinge. he
smiles at the russian

mistress. she says hatless acorns. she holds his hand across the table, places his hand
on her chest. she says, see what i mean