The Book of Geoff

© 2018 Katherine Williams
"The Book of Geoff" appears in
SC Review 51.1

An elegiac. I did not know how hard it would hit me, to hear that my first husband had died.
Now that my guests are seated at the table,
I lift the faux-leather cover.

I tear out pages and pass them.
My friends read along with me,
and then Claire, circus oboist
fallen from the sky onto Folly Beach,
puts the paper in her mouth. So we
all chew, swallow little wads.
Wads of Monk. MJQ. Hot Club. Trane.
Wads of ballet and biophysics,
trap drums and Martin guitar.
Wads of languages, homemade six-
course meals, pilgrimages to The Modern.
We laugh, trying to chew the page of
the grapefruit cannonade
launched from our little French Corsaire
against sunburnt tourists
aboard the General No-Regard.
Wads of his family have to be chewed
carefully because of bones.
The dense chapter on shiny paper
in the middie, that’s my scotch-addled
parents, Billy’s cello, my analysis.
My What Is Art. My furious joys.
Here we come to the arcane
chapters nobody likes to read.
Jesse, my homeless junkie surfer friend,
tears them up tiny and passes the scraps
to the others like sacred host.
We chew slow, the hard dry wads
becoming harder to swallow:
the page of my concussion
cycling Edisto Highway behind him. Geoff
losing me at Penn Station,
calling out some stop-name
from the platform as the doors shut on me.
Oh, and here’s my near-fatal pneumonia,
his occasional calls from Ohio.
Mixed in with funny stories we told,
Blackberry Marauders, my roadside piss
in the stinging nettles of Normandy,
the Grapelli concert missed by an hour
owing to the time-change—
no need to chew, those just dissolve.
Here’s marriage counseling, his sleazy
quack of a California shrink—
a cowardly way to tell me,
says Colette, who paints angel-wings
on walls so people can try them out.
These wads gag us all,
but more wine helps it down:

the seat I decline at Otis/Parsons
only to crawl back to the cruel job
that got him through training,
my pension already reassigned.
On the same page, my sister’s cancer,
her husband’s death by lightning,
Geoff’s plaid-suit lawyer harassing my vigils.
Now, closing the cover, we arrive
at the theme of the Book of Geoff:
Countless pages of he could not.
So stiff and dry they can’t be torn out,
much less chewed. Pages and pages
of sorry outcomes because he could not.
Farewell things, adios people.
Goodbye Porkpie Hat, ’Round Midnight,
Blood Count. His sacred songs now mine.
The book writ, the wine finished.

Body and blood of Geoff at his most beloved
and despised, our tango on water
and our Fake Book alchemy, now as then,
as long as we both shall live.