Letter to a Dead Husband by Penelope Moffet

Letter to a Dead Husband

You made me laugh
and you still do,
rising through my dreams
with salty one-liners,
your face tanned and ruddy
from whatever you’ve been doing
in the afterlife, there
with your strong hands
kneading bread or pasta
which you now make from scratch,
just as when I knew you
you’d spend whole days
simmering spaghetti sauce,
lentils suffused with ham hocks,
perfecting pesto
fit to serve with copious wine.

For you heaven would be
John Mayall and MC-5
amped up to eleven,
electric guitars and drums
blasting the whole neighborhood,
sweet as a room clogged
with the billowing scent of weed,
no one asking you to turn it down,
no one thinking you should shower,
drink some coffee, catch the bus to work,
restrain your scruffy beard, your wild hair-wisp,
your blue eyes beaming satire
at a too-straight world.

A medium summons up your presence
with exactitude, your manchild
dancing self who won’t shut up,
keeps elbowing back onto the stage
of K’s closed eyes.
My middle name is More.
Heaven is a place where
nothing ever happens,
she says you say.
This isn’t where I thought
I’d end up. I still exist.
I’m with everybody,
the cockroach
that ate Cincinnati
in the shitbox in the sky
with two cats, one meowing
like a human babe.

Prankster tiptoeing away
and sneaking back,
the way you left our marriage
bit by self-subtracted bit.
You moved to Ketchikan
for endless summer days
and winter nights
until your heart blew up,
destroyed by years of drink and fat
delectable to last bite and last drop.

You could live
on Cabernet and comic books,
vodka in the freezer,
bookcases full of Russian history,
pulling mussels from a shell,
telling me I’m lovely
just the way I look tonight,
blue eyes dancing
the better to seduce me with,
incorrigible and selfish
but then all men are selfish
K says you say
before you change into a hippo
twirling in a tutu, telling me
one day there’ll be another man
to cook with in a warm companionable nest.

I think it’s just a dream
the medium relates,
memories and feelings
flickering like electric lights.
And yet that scampering dervish she called up
resembles you, speaks as you would,
sings your songs.

If only I could blaze
with faith, believe you
different from the seal remains
I saw once on a northern island’s shore,
translucent rotting flesh
jittered by waves upon a beach,
almost a human shape,
all power gone.

How can anyone feel sure
the spirit slips its skin,
goes on in other form?

In the middle of the bay
a gray head broke the surface,
dark eyes looked toward me,
then it tucked its head,
it rolled, it dived.


Penelope Moffet is the author of three chapbooks, Cauldron of Hisses (Arroyo Seco Press, 2022), It Isn’t That They Mean to Kill You (Arroyo Seco Press, 2018) and Keeping Still (Dorland Mountain Arts, 1995). Her poems have been published in many journals, including The Missouri Review, Columbia, Permafrost, One, ONE ART, Natural Bridge, Gleam, The Rise Up Review, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, The Ekphrastic Review and Gyroscope. She has been the recipient of artist residencies at Dorland Mountain Arts, The Mesa Refuge, The Helen R. Whiteley Center and Alderworks Alaska. She has published articles in the Los Angeles Times, Publishers Weekly, Poets & Writers and elsewhere. She has also worked as a publicist for non-profit organizations, as a legal secretary, and as Senior Editor at the UCLA Center for the Study of Women.

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