When Claudia, in the final
stages, described the smell
of bone dust I could feel the drill
bit entering her
skull. Her joy: listening for a barn
owl;  watching nuthatches
at the birdfeeder & when the scarlet
tanager swooped in—a rare treat—she forgot
the unbroken pain. Her daybed
was positioned just so she could gaze
at the Richmond as it rushed by.  She wrote, 
Today I can move the arm just
enough to hold a pen. So

happy to be near my river.
I drive my chipped-up
green pickup on gravel that
like a caterpillar on a wet
branch, hugs the narrow
finger of the Big Sandy where
old chrome & yellow kitchen
chairs sit smack
dab in the river which is beginning
to rise. I imagine the favorite
perch of a husband
& wife who bait-fished for blue
gill & yellow perch & after
they died the chairs became
a shrine like a grave
or a secret spot to let
your mind drift with
the rumbling water, fancy
free & with no cares. The first time

I saw a river
otter swimming in full
view, I almost passed
out from joy. It was in a cut
& run, count your losses, grovel-
for-half-the-401K kind
of life, but I was turning
away from it, though
still acting out. I remember
so little about the petty
actions of divorce, rancor
has long lifted
from my body. From that slice
of time, the ecstasy
of meeting an otter remains
intact. I feel her little
pips & bleats in my cells
& clavicles. Such a vision
as she glided
away from me on the mighty
Nisqually, water trailing
behind like a wedding veil.