I’m sad tonight, sad my marriage is ending, sad that what we once had together is gone. I’ve spent the day packing. I’ve been going through old photos, some very old, some of my wife and me in happy times. There were happy times, times when I know she loved me and I loved her. I still love her.

It’s tough, living together, acting like our life is normal, preparing and eating meals together, making small talk—nothing serious, nothing personal, nothing touching on the dissolution of our marriage. I don’t want to go, and yet am going. I hear my wife in another room, talking to a friend on the phone, and my heart aches. There is nothing about this that makes sense.

I ask myself: Am I so bad? What did I do that was so grievous to warrant my wife falling out of love with me, warrant divorce? I know what she says, and as crimes of marriage go, my sins seem minor. To me—but not to her.

I know, I know. It’s not entirely me. It’s as much her—so many people have told me this I need to believe it. They tell me it’s her history. She doesn’t stay with her men. But it doesn’t help.  I’m still the one rejected, leaving, packing up, planning a new life without her. I wanted to be the exception.

As one friend of hers said to me, “she’s tough.”  I know.

Maybe when we’re no longer together the hurt won’t be as deep, as wounding as it is tonight.  It’s all so evident now, in my face. I might as well be a roommate moving to a new job in another city. That’s what it looks like, though not what it feels like. It feels like hell.

I have asked my wife not to be in the house the morning I leave. I want to be alone for the night, and leave in the morning without her there, without our dog Bebe there, too. I could not bear it. I don’t think she understands the gravity of this request. If she refuses to leave I will go to a hotel and come back the next day to take the clothes and books I’ll need for the autumn before moving to Boston in January.

An emotional farewell on the doorstep, our dog barking as I leave, me crying, will not happen. I cannot let this happen.

Sometimes while I’m packing I start thinking about how I’ll arrange a new place. Despite the downsizing I’ve been doing—five more shopping bags of books left the house this week—I still have too much stuff for the smaller apartment I’ll need to rent. Too many papers. Postcards saved from a hundred museums around the world. Hotel stationary from everywhere. Why do I save all this ephemera?

This afternoon I threw away over five hundred old business cards, saved in spiral notebooks for decades. The notebooks went in the trash, too.

Cards of people I’ve worked with since the beginning; cards of shopkeepers, restaurants, hotels, bookstores, antique shops, friends. Cards from more than a dozen countries. I saved a few…how could I toss out James Laughlin’s card, or Lincoln Kirstein’s, or my boss in Paris, and friend, Mercedes Erra?  Easily I’m sure, but into a box they went. On some other day, some time in the future, I’ll let them go, too.  Too much is going now.

Letters next, letters I’ve also saved for years and years. My “important” correspondence all went to the special collections at the University of Buffalo before I got married—the Jargon Society correspondence–hundreds of letters from Jonathan Williams, Paul Metcalf, Guy Davenport.

Today it was letters from my Uncle Albert, lovingly saved—he was my only regularly corresponding relative; letters from friends from Ireland; a few letters from my father, letters that I didn’t open and reread.

I saved one letter from my wife, written so sweetly, when she did love me. It’s the only evidence I have.

I am very sad tonight, and lonely though my wife is only in another room, watching television. These moods fall down on me like the wet fog outside.

Love fled…

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look

Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;


How many loved your moments of glad grace,

And loved your beauty with love false or true,

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,

And loved the sorrows of your changing face;


And bending down beside the glowing bars,

Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled

And paced upon the mountains overhead

And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

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