In the weeks before her death, my grandfather dreamed
of my grandmother twice, as if he knew the end were coming
even before it came. In the first dream she undressed for bed,
removing her blouse in the dark light of the window as always,
but this time as her shirt fell away it revealed every bone underneath,
her ribcage in its entirety, the long lines of the humerus and ulna,
no skin at all, as if she had slipped out of her soul along with her clothes.
That night they slept spooned together with his wrinkled face
pressed against the bloody raw wreckage of her exposed heart,
arms around her skeleton. The next morning he sat
at the breakfast table with cold cereal, not even looking at me.
The second time, he fell into the dream hard,
landing in a pile of orange and red fall leaves covering
the backyard of their winter cabin in Minnesota.
She was wearing pink shorts and a ruffled lace top with
high-topped sneakers, grey hair pulled back in a ponytail,
an outfit from the teenage years when he first met her.
He pulled her into the leaves, laughing, throwing fistfuls
of them into her smiling face, but when he reached
to circle his hands around her waist she sank deep
into the pile, its edges closing over her head,
and was sucked down below as if into quicksand.
When she died for real several weeks later,
my grandfather had already been prepared for her death twice,
but wept as hard as he had the first time.
That’s what I learned from my grandparents about love:
it hurts no matter how often you fall into it,
even if this is your millionth time.
I often wonder how people would react if I died.
It doesn’t seem fair.