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Widows I Have Known

by Lance Larsen

The first was a violinist, youngish and unshaved, who kept her husband in a carved box beside her toaster. She opened it once when I came collecting for the newspaper. Splinters of bone, mostly, a little ash. Which she honored by risking her own bones. Riding a red moped without a helmet, jumping out of a Cessna over saffron fields. And the way she played Vivaldi—as if practicing finger exercises with the stars.

The second widow we left in a clearing a few weekends after opening day. A doe. I was fourteen. She came back to nuzzle the sagebrush where we cleaned the buck she had been running with. We had enough tags to shoot her too, but some wanted to save their bullets for antlers.

Number three was a girl in Lima, a widow by temperament if not circumstance. You should have seen her selling guinea pigs in the market. She grew sadder with each bill she tucked inside her blouse. How did I know she was a widow? A white streak in her hair, a streak of vultures in the sky.

Four, sometimes I feel like a widow. Silly since I am married. Silly since I am a man. Still, I sympathize with female praying mantises, who eat their husbands after mating.

Finally, the widow my daughter drew in school—cowboy boots, spurs, a candelabra hat, and twins inside her. So she won’t be lonely, my daughter said. You see, her husband got killed. At the rodeo. You mean he was gored? No, I mean he fell from the flag pole, singing. Like this, boom. With dark yellow hair. Flowers grew from his cuts. It was fast fast fast. No one could save him, not even the clowns.


Lance Larsen is the author of Erasable Walls (New Issues Press, 1998). His poems have also appeared in The Paris Review, Kenyon Review, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, and elsewhere. Graduate coordinator of English at Brigham Young University, he is married to painter and mixed-media artist Jacqui Larsen. (5/03)

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