Thomm Quackenbush, author

He is heavier than I thought. In a white bag with the bridge across forever printed in green on the side. A bridge upon which, I suppose, I'm going to think I will meet him. At some point, in some timeless place, when I am ready to cross with him. I am, I suppose supposed to think that he will wait and that we will cross together. But simply he is heavier than I thought. No one tells you what to expect and so my friend walks me through the simple things… breathing. There will another box inside he tells me, and inside that there will be a heavy plastic bag. "So this is what it all boils down to," I say. "No- bakes down to" he replies. And for a moment I consider the implications.

I ate the dog. It was easy to swallow a bit of grittiness- to keep him inside of me, not nourishing but present. I do not know if I can swallow the bitterness of this next pill. He is so much heavier than I thought.

We build him a box. Mahogany made with no measurement and tools that I remember from my father's shop in Brooklyn. Table saws, miter saws, pneumatic nail guns. And I act as if he isn't in there. As if that's not the face I cleaned or the body I changed, or the hand I held, or the mouth I gave water. It is not the body I made kielbasa for, or the tongue that tasted the ice cream I bought. It is not the smile at the puppy that I lay down on the bed. It is only heavier than I thought. I pretend that it is not the man who spurned me and loved me in the same breath. I pretend that I don't want to meet for coffee in between classes, or that there not moment everyday that I want to have together. This whole thing is heavier than I thought. But I couldn't keep him there any longer. I could not have his ashes in another's house. The funeral home has kept him for months, mostly because my mother didn't want him in her house, and I was not ready. This is not to say I'm ready now, I do not think I could ever be ready for the heaviness in my hands. Still I have him now.

The night he died I didn't really cry, it was only after I left the apartment and they took him away did I cry. I did not miss him but feared that he was going to feel alone. That he might be scared where he was and that I left, I left him in the hands of others and that perhaps just perhaps he was as alone as I was. I let them take him, I let foreign hands dress him in grey boxer briefs, blue jeans and white and blue striped shirt from Eddie Bauer. I let someone put him in a car and drive him away. I let them put him in a box and I didn't really ever say goodbye. I let someone else take him, and what if he was scared and I wasn't there? What if for all of his heaviness he felt like he might weigh nothing compared to the size of the universe. And I can never forgive myself for this.

This grief is heavier than I thought. It sneaks upon you at the odd moment- Buying tea, looking and a clock, some child with a watercolor, every time I breath in. I have run out of words and just when I think I have run out of tears there is another, and another until the ark returns from the shore.

I picked up my father today, brought him home in a container not so different from the original, for the first time I carried him, and for the first time he watches over me.

Emily is a strong woman fighting against her body and soul to earn her wings. She is or has been a nationally ranked blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do, a two time inducteee to the Martial Arts Hall of Fame, an animal control officer, a graduate student, and a groovy person.

Stars in the Daytime
Stars in the Daytime

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Works by Thomm Quackenbush


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