And I died nobly, like a man


Siren, by Robert Haas

Here is the poem I meant to write
But didn’t
Because you walked into my study
Without any clothes on.

I had just been thinking of how the Aegean sun
Must have lit up the faces of Troy’s fallen heroes
When you walked into my study
Without any clothes on—

Walked in and stood there,
Holding a glass of sherry
Over your left breast,
Which looked soft and firm as Brie.

Your tone of voice this morning
Should have warned me
That you might walk into my study
Without any clothes on.

I should have lashed myself to my chair
And stoppered my ears with wax.
But I forgot.
And I’m glad I forgot

Because when you walked into my study
Without any clothes on
You sang sweetly, sang sweetly,
And I died nobly, like a man.

The airless summer

Each morning, when I drive onto the Biltmore Estate to go to work, I drive by the cornfields, and I track the summer’s progress by its growth. A couple of weeks ago the stalks were standing between four and six feet high; now they’re well above human height, and in the late afternoon they cast the road into shadow. Summer has always been my least favorite season — I’m built for cold weather, both physically and temperamentally — but the growing corn makes me think of autumn, and crisp weather, and jack o’ lanterns. Reprieve is coming.

This is two weeks old. It's several feet higher now.

Mia is gone for most of the summer, which is another reason not to relish it. She’s down visiting her mom in Alabama, and I worry about her there. The apartment feels empty without her, of course. Her room, with her books and her dolls and her art projects, is a time capsule. The air in there is like a held breath. I need her to come back home and start the world moving again.

She was back for one week, though. We celebrated her eleventh birthday and went out to see some fireworks.

In the meantime, I have been filling the days. In June I went to the Sycamore Hill Writer’s Workshop, where I submitted a new story called “The Good Husband” for a critique. It was very well-received, and the problems the others found there were consistent with my own diagnosis, so the revisions are coming easily. The stories this year were of a very high caliber; I think my favorite was a very quiet, beautifully written apocalypse piece by Molly Gloss, called “The Grinnell Method.” This is what Andrea Barrett would write if she wrote about the end of the world.

The workshop cabin at Sycamore Hill

So there are revisions to finish, and the novel to write, and the cannibal priests which have been too long neglected.

And soon my little girl will be home again, and we’ll be spending all of our energies getting ready for sixth grade, and the new school. And then the corn will be ready for harvesting, and the temperature will break, and I will be able to breathe again.