I spent years studying with him—from him, I should say, from afar, actually, from his books, rather.
Learning about far more than what the sounds and the rhythms and the meanings of words do for and to us.
And then I was invited to meet him.
At a dinner in his honor following a reading.
I was undone to silliness.
My students noticed my giddiness, my blushing, my moist palms. They tittered. I shook.
After class I practiced what I would say to him. The story. Matt says hello.
Matt, the father of my brother’s good friend. Matt who went to grade school with him in County Derry. Matt who told me just what childhood story to whisper in his ear.
It was just the thing.
I should be fine. Golden.
But deep into every night leading up to the evening, I crashed open the enormous heavy door, bang, late to his reading.
From the raised lectern--a pulpit really--there he leaned, all shaggy-headed, glasses down on his nose, pausing a breath to look out at me as he recited Postscript.
Gasps bounced from all around me as I strode up the school church aisle calling out with him:
Useless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.
I saw my husband waving from a pew, a nervous tattered kind of wave as though he wasn't sure he wanted anyone to notice.
And that was when I looked down and saw that I was naked.
It happened like that night after night. I awoke with a catch of breath and a clutch of the sheets. Every night.
Until the evening he did come to town and read in the church and I sat in the pew listening quietly and fully dressed, and later, as I whispered Matt's story in his ear, he laughed and laughed and pressed my arm, and shared stories of his boyhood. And taught me all over again.
I was fine. Golden.