Carved on Air

“You understand, I shall not/ If I survive you care/ To raise a headstone for/ You I have carved on air.” ~Donald Davie

Twelve years today.

There is no stone marker for my husband, who is present in every lovely seen thing. Nor is there any such marker for my father, whose ashes touched down by the academic building where he truly lived, but whose energy inhabits the subatomic universe.

Growing green and light, as a perished child gently exhorted her deeply grieving mother in The Poisonwood Bible, is the only marker my husband needs.

(c) Jim Glennon, March 2008

For a college centenary celebration, Veronica Forrest-Thompson wrote “The Hypen,” an ode to a shorthand notation that reflects both the infinite and constricted space of human time. The poem itself has now been with us mortals longer than my husband was.

Forrest-Thompson observed that hyphens’ wee lightly floating dash is used both to link and “to divide/ for etymological or other purpose.”

My husband entered this world on a December day in Maryland, and left it on March 22, in New Hampshire, but you will find neither date bracketing a carved hyphen.

His physical memorial is something that would delight him: a high school bench dedicated “In Musical Memory of Dr. Jim Glennon.”  No dates need be applied. Music, after all, boundlessly reanimates and rejuvenates whatever surrounds it. Once released into our world, it never leaves us, and we are incapable of letting it go.


Three. Nearly half shorn from “8,”

but endless half-infinity left behind

Twos side-by-side: two daughters, two sons

Ones, freestanding and conjoined

Towering twins imprinted on air

and rendered in light

We look up still

“Is it special?”

Today, for only the second time, a stranger asked me about my necklace.

I have written about Jim’s wedding band, which I held towards my lips with both hands cupped around it–similar to the way I remember gently, fleetingly confining fireflies  when I was a child–during the rare occasions he removed it from his finger at the hospital.

I am not the only one who has written about the divet where the same gold band left its mark on Jim’s finger.

I also have written about the diamond pendant Jim gave me as the last gift I could hold.  Someone told me it is known as an “infinity” necklace.

I wear them both always.

At first I wore them on separate chains.  I did so as my sons and I completed our sleepless forty-hour odyssey returning to Boston from Kyoto (a trip that featured a particularly unpleasant thirteen-hour layover whose details led one of my brothers to wonder whether our host city, loosely speaking, should have been in contention for a title along with the airport a pilot described thus: “A filthy lobby, sullen-faced employees, no place to sit, and a vague sense of danger all add up to the World’s Worst Airport.”).

We ended up re-entering our home country through Detroit, where I foggily stumbled about, dehydrated and nauseated, looking for water bottles before we boarded the final flight.

At a store counter, the woman next to me looked at me and said, “That’s a beautiful necklace.”

Blearily I touched my right hand first to the pendant and then to the ring and asked, “Which one?”

“Well, both of them. I knew that must be special.” She looked at me kindly, and I gathered she meant the ring.  I thanked her.

(A formerly fearful flier, I always slip a finger inside the ring during takeoffs and landings and other moments of high stress.)

Some months ago I began wearing both the pendant and the ring on the same chain above my heart: infinity and an endless circle.   I suppose I have abandoned nuance.

During today’s bout of evening tasks I stopped at the drug store, where one of the pharmacy assistants smiled at me and asked with genuine feeling how all of us are doing.  And then I dashed to the grocery store and piled my caffeinated trove on the conveyor belt.

The cashier, who was new and in training, chatted as she rang things up.  When she was done, she tilted her head, looked at the necklace and asked,  “Is that special?”

This time I had no confusion about which she meant: many have pendants; few bear wedding bands around their necks.

“Yes, it’s my husband’s ring.”

The word “special” doesn’t begin to do it justice.

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