Here’s Rebecca on the roof of our apartment on East 22nd Street in New York City in perhaps 2002. This photo was taken by Wyatt Counts, the friend of a friend, and it’s a wonderful likeness. Rebecca called herself “dark and stormy,” but I think warm and troubled is more accurate. But then again, who isn’t that? This is the same rooftop from which we watched the collapse of the World Trade Center the year before and, for about an hour prior to that, scores of people jump to their deaths out of the smoke. Is that where she got the idea? It’s the same rooftop where we used to drink wine and talk about our plans. It’s the same rooftop where, after she died, I arranged to have a tree planted. I tend to avoid East 22nd Street as I’m doing my errands in the Flatiron/Gramercy part of town. As if, when I passed the exact spot where her body was found, I might be struck on the head by a falling object, brained by a falling branch of the very tree I planted in her memory.
All the poems I have written about Rebecca’s death (and some about our life together) have finally been published in one place, a chapbook called The Whetting Stone (Rattle Chapbook Prize, 2017). Some of the poems have been published individually in journals, but none have ever appeared in any of my other books. I tried twice to have a section of those poems in the manuscript, but you could easer sail a stone in a paper boat across the Hudson River. They just carried too much weight. For a decade I’ve suspected they would need a book all to themselves. Now, almost 13 years after her death, they will have it.