First Husband

“Poetry is . . . emotion recollected in tranquility.”
― William Wordsworth

I found his obit on Google,
hadn’t seen him, barely thought
of him in forty years
since the day he loaded his car
with half of everything – blankets, pillows,
dishes, albums (we fought over
who’d get “The Graduate” poster of Hoffman
and Anne Bancroft’s leg) – and drove off
to I-didn’t-care-where.

Once, 20 years later I learned where he was
from his buddy John and called.
He still taught drama and directed
summer stock in a small midwestern town.
We laughed together, comfortable,
finally, in our separate skins.

Now an obit with pictures and two columns
in the paper. A well-loved, prominent citizen,
it read, wife, three kids, grandkids. He wrote
a children’s book and “left the town
with memories of comedy and drama
that enriched our lives.”

Our marriage wasn’t mentioned. No need,
I suppose – a youthful take off
and crash landing best forgotten. But I wish
I had a chance to say goodbye.

– Sarah Russell
First published by Silver Birch
Photo Source
for dVerse Poetics

81 thoughts on “First Husband

  1. I don’t know if your ex husband was your “first love” or not, but I do think a part of our hearts will always be with the one with whom we first learned about love and shared it. No matter where life takes us, even bringing us to our true soulmates, I don’t think it selfish or sentimental to want to say a peaceful goodbye to our firsts.

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  2. You’ve really captured the mixed emotions of relationships that once meant so much and seem to have been erased from our lives…but the traces always remain. Those ties are never completely broken. (K)

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  3. What a story! History that though past cannot be forgotten. And the wish to say “goodbye”…I recently learned of the death of an old lover…it was wayyy past but I remembered and had that tinge of reqret.

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  4. I felt every bit of this. Excellent work. Thought is so powerful, isn’t it? When you focus on something, you feel it; when you don’t let it cross your mind, it just doesn’t consume you … until that sudden reminder of those moments, of that love (or hate [… or both]). Given the right/wrong stimuli, I could feel every bit of every relationship I was ever part of. It’s good to guard your mind/heart from that onslaught, when possible.

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  5. Firstly, thank you for the enjoyable prompt, Sarah. It’s interesting to read the different responses. I also enjoyed your poem, which was like hearing the story from a friend, as if I know all the characters.. Is that regret in the final line?

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  6. Relief, regret or happiness? Can be many things when you reconnect with a loved one in the past. Only good news and stories to share now, that is the most important things.

    Also, Sarah, can you reply to the dVerse comments as well? Thanks for the prompt.

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  7. A longing for closure. After so many years, the obit reminds you of your own time together and the failed relationship. It has a feel of remorse from the tearing asunder, that can’t be healed anymore

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    1. Thanks, Dwight. Yes, that reconnection was important. He called me Sal — the only person to do that — and lapsed into the old nickname right away. Sweet, and now, of course, bittersweet, even though we couldn’t make the marriage work.

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  8. So poignant. Someone who had been such a part of one’s life doesn’t go away. You did such a good job with the subtlety of the emotions in this, Sarah. One poem that affected me deeply years ago was titled “Dog of Divorce.” Like yours, so powerful. Don’t remember the author, except that he was from NV.

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    1. Thanks a lot, Victoria. I have friends who share custody of their dog. I’ve always said that in divorce you argue even about who gets custody of the garbage (or in the poem, the poster from The Graduate). And yes, those important people stay forever.

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  9. Marriage is a dream followed, and divorce the reality of where dreams too often go — wistful ends of both here, far enough away to be free of judgment or even despair. And the obit is a container of heart, as well as its coffin. Thanks for this and the challenge!

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  10. Wonderful poem, Sarah. So much distance between the two (poster as date stamp) and the speaker’s implied indifference toward the ex. Then you reel it all back in. I also enjoyed you poem now up on RHP, which is how I found your blog.

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    1. Thanks so much, Scot. And thanks for finding me. I’ll come on over to visit you too. “Learning to Play Baseball” is part of a manuscript I have out just now to a dozen presses. Cross your fingers for me. No word yet. Love Right Hand Pointing. Some wonderful poems in this issue.

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