Reading the autobiography of her ex-husband, my now-distant friend choked with sarcasm at the omission of herself and the children, seeing that as conclusive evidence of a man, not self-promoting, but self-erased. During the dinner at which he had proposed more than seventy years ago, he kept a cheat sheet of talking points underneath his napkin in case the conversation lagged. Thus no one was surprised when, at his death, he had left nothing of his estate to his forbearing survivors, but divided the dragon’s hoard between the library and parks, and his late-life, buxom caretaker spouse. It was pure Groucho in the obviousness of it, but disbelief, like belief, boils the frog slowly. At the end, his sixty-year-old children still craved love’s table crumbs, but he who had made of himself the exception was scarcely inconvenienced by his own demise. Surrounded by the attentions of children still starving for a nod or a touch, he waved them away to stare at the sea where he experienced a warm, valedictory fog, his body released in its brittle turn, showing, how even at the brink, one could be both immersed in the wretched longings of others and blessedly devoid of empathy too.
David Rigsbee is the author of 19 books and chapbooks, including his new book, School of the Americas, just out from Black Lawrence Press. His work has appeared in APR, Georgia Review, The New Yorker, Poetry, Southern Review, and many others. He is a Pushcart Prize winner for 2012, and earned an NEA Fellowship for Poetry for 2013.