The Surgeon’s Widow

by Vicki Feaver

I dug all night in the company
of moths drawn from the dark
to the bright beam of my torch
recovering first his skull, last,
the phalanges of his toes,
Finally, at dawn, my bag full,
I carried my husband home.

Laying his bones, damp and cold
from the grave, on a rug
by the fire, I found a drill,
pliers, and a coil of wire.
Aided by the diagrams
in his anatomy books,
I reassembled his gaunt frame.

The night of our wedding,
he’d swung me off my feet,
waltzing me from room to room
before carrying me up to bed.
Now, I held him and danced
the same route, stumbling,
almost falling on the stairs.

Once we made love in the bath.
Now, I lifted him gently
into the tub and washed him
like a muddy child,
scrubbing with a nailbrush
at green and amber stains
in the porous bones.

His hands, I left until last
soaping fingers, famous
for their delicate skill,
with my fingers, crooked
and clumsy with arthritis.
Finally, rinsing off grey suds,
I dried him with a warm towel.

I slept as before his death:
his knees slotted into the crook
of my knees, my buttocks
cradled by his pelvis,
my head on the pillow
beside his, dreaming
of his breath on my neck.