This was you; moments after you were born, before your eyes darkened to fox fire amber, full of spark and mischief. When your tiny starfish hands curled and itched to be full of the world, before life happened to you – before…Back in the town where it happened, I thought I caught a glimpse of you between the rock face and the sea, but you weren’t there or anywhere, except underneath the ivy, under the fall of red and gold leaves scattered across the clay.I drew the infinity symbol on my wrist, as if somehow its magic might return you to the world, but each day it faded from black to mossy green, tarnished by a thousand falling tears. We could be making music now, or picking chillies from our garden. We could be singing songs on the railway tracks or lying on our backs making faces at the trees. If I could hold your hands in mine, I would honour them with kindness. I would kiss them softly like a child’s and never again let them go.All time is blurred by the chaos of your absence. It melts and warps into this alien landscape, of rubber clocks and broken sleep, the promise of endless tomorrows.Back, back, back I go, to the moment we were building dreams, to the moment you were laughing in my arms. It has been a month since you slipped gently through the portal in your bedroom, though it has taken me this long to stop believing you would find your secret wings and make your way back home. Too late now for a practical joke, to hear your voice wisecracking,“Remember that time when everybody thought that I was dead?”Yeah honey, that really freaked us out…Each night I find myself falling deeper, into the endless weeping sea, reaching for your hands, like jewels of sunken treasure. It makes little sense to jump off a cliff, but less sense for death to take you from your sleep; a poison needle tucked inside your vein. Oh how meaningless that such beauty and love could be stolen away by a flower.I do not know how to say goodbye. All of my words flew away with you. The pictures I hold will never be anything more than pictures. I pour over them now and examine your ancient buried sorrows, the depths of you that I will never reach. Each night I light a single red candle and place it under the window with the wildflowers and the jasmine scented incense. I keep falling to the floor like an animal dying, recoiling from this knife wound in my chest. Our father who art in heaven, please say it isn’t so…I cry for you in bathrooms and bars, write letters to God, tell you stories of the moon, of the children, of the nothingness. None of this will ever bring you back. None of this will ever stop the nagging guilt that I could have done something to save you. If only, and if I had, would you still be here playing your harmonica, writing me poems, and building me things out of wood? Instead I am here with my heart torn open, whispering your sweet name to the moon and hoping you can hear me. I do not know how to say goodbye.In the hours that followed your passing I was transformed from my ordinary girl self into a different species altogether. I remember the strange sound of my broken china voice, and the ghost of madness wailing from my bones… My mind played tricks; clever tricks, rebuilding the moment like a skilled magician, each time promising a string of pearls or a fluffy white rabbit - anything other than this. But this was real and it belonged to me, like skin and hair and teeth. And although my mind could not accept it, you would still be lost forever.It is dark and quiet on the aeroplane and I wrap my arms around myself and imagine I am a bird flying toward you. I try to stop my heart from cracking open in the company of strangers but I am alone in this confined space and the anguish is relentless. I swallow a handful of sleeping tablets in the hope of a few hours respite and close distorted dreams of you emerge and return to the sea. When I wake I am already crying but the middle-aged couple seated next to me pretend I am suffering from a cold. I try to prepare myself for the image of you decaying in a casket. I try to imagine your eyes shut tight and your full lips crowned in silence. It is impossible, like preparing yourself for a void. When I was younger, I saw the shrinking corpses of my father and elderly grandmother, both of them, ravaged with disease, grew smaller and more sparrow like until their bodies curled up, already dead, a pile of skin-covered bones. If I were to spend the rest of my life going back and forth, from life to death, from beginning to end, I would never come to understand this circle of broken time.I arrive at the funeral home as your service is commencing. I walk slowly toward the open door and my heart stops dead like a watch. When you were here, everything was alive. Our love grew and blossomed over time, across an ocean, moment by moment, a seed, a petal, a flower… In the branches of my memory I see you pirouetting across the living room floor like a character from A Midsummer Nights Dream... I see succulents lazing in the window, incense burning on the living room mantle, a bookshelf adorned with gypsy tales and the permanence of feathers. I see you and me in those tangled hours, like wild kittens scratching and purring, emerging only for a bite to eat, or a bowl of chilli chocolate ice cream. I see you smiling up at me from your vegetable garden, pumpkin soup simmering on the stove, the wind chime moving in the breeze…I see…The last time I was here with you, we veered off the airport highway and kissed beneath the stars. The grass had grown high in places and you scared me with your tales of spiders and snakebites and creatures from the lagoon. I cannot remember the name of that road; it has disappeared too... Lost forever in that secret place into which everything eventually falls. Outside now, and the lake has turned to ice and the trees have dismantled all their leaves. I place my hands beside the proteas and the creeping vines that arch their backs across your coffin. And although I can feel your mother’s arms wrapped tight around my chest, I surrender, like a broken branch; another severed flower.After the service, your friends and I made our way back to your house. It was like walking through a shipwreck or a time capsule, the inextinguishable past. In the kitchen we gathered like children around your homemade lavender rose cake. Perhaps it was because I hadn’t eaten in days, but that piece of cake was the most exquisite thing that I had ever tasted. Later, when it grew dark, I crawled into your bed and pretended I was floating on an ancient magical carpet. It was then that I noticed the blood stain where the secret door had opened. It was an imprint, a perfect heart; the last sweet trace of your life.I can’t believe I am on this road again. You brought me out here in the summertime when we were on our way to East Texas. You were taking me to meet your father and I made you stop at the ‘Riding High Cowboy Church’ so we could take a stupid picture. This time, I am riding in someone else’s truck and we are heading out to your grave. I try to roll a cigarette but it is so cold my fingers wont work. The driver offers me a Marlboro. He says, “Here Maam, would you like one of these cowboy killers?’I light one and make a gagging sound and we carry on in silence.We arrive at the cemetery and someone offers me a jacket. Your mother and sisters are huddled together, their faces all smudged with tears. Today the casket is open. I see brown boots and interlaced fingers. I hear branches crackling in the wind. I think maybe this isn’t happening to me, it is happening to someone pretending to be me; someone dressed up in my skin. The preacher is making a sermon about God and I want to tell him that God has taken his massive fist and smashed up my whole world. But I say nothing. I am paralysed with fear.The night you died, I dreamt we were married beneath a willow tree that grew out of the soft Byron Bay sand. My headdress kept falling off and you were laughing hysterically because it blew into the sea. The sun was warm and delicious and we both ran in chasing after it, squealing and giggling like children. When the water grew deep, you held onto me and whispered the sweetest words ever spoken…my wife, my wife…That was the last time I saw you.And now this:I lean forward through the silence and touch your cold white hand. I’m afraid.I want to hold you, but this person is not you, this replica dressed in your dying suit, this mannequin made of wax.I kiss your lips once, think maybe it could break the spell but these lips are cold and sinister and I wish I hadn’t kissed them. The preacher places his arm around my shoulder, to let me know it is time. But I am not ready and I cannot let go of your hand. I scream then because my own heart is collapsing and the sound of it sends shivers through the trees. I scream because I do not know how to piece this back together. Without speaking, I tell you I love you. I tell you that I never knew anyone like you, so humble and full of grace. I tell you that without our love to nourish me, my heart is no longer human.It is time. I lay my satin petticoat down and drape it around your shoulder. It is the one that slept beside you whenever I was away. Now it is a pillow, a sash, a widow's dress, and yours to keep forever.I am leaving like a refugee in the middle of the night. Your mother and I have been over at your house, sifting through heirlooms and items of importance.I have the sailing-ship clock, a suitcase of clothes, the silver watch, and the harmonica. Your mother has the records, the accordion and your cat. There are so many objects that I pick up and put down; the china doll you bought in New Orleans, a handmade wooden puppet, the statue of the Madonna with fake tears glued to her eyes. These objects give me comfort the way people were supposed to. All the plants brought in from the veranda have snapped frozen from the cold, and your mother says they probably won’t recover. I ask her what she is planning to do with all this stuff and she shakes her head in silence. Outside the wind is howling and the highway is wet from the rain. I breathe it all in. The smell of Texas is the smell of home to me now. But I doubt that I will ever be coming back.I arrive home on the morning of your thirty-fourth birthday. My mother is waiting in the airport terminal, with my two children nestled beside her. In the car park, the Brisbane humidity slaps me in the face. I am exhausted, but my children are excited to see me and I pretend that I am happy to be home. In the kitchen, my mother hands me a small-collaged parcel with my name on it.She smiles and says, “I almost forgot, this parcel arrived while you were away.”I gaze at the parcel and sip my tea. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, the last thing that you sent me before you died. I open it slowly, graciously, the way my grandmother opened presents, with care. As a child, I never understood why she didn’t just rip them apart like we did. I am crying now, over all the things you mean to me, over all the things that are lost. It isn’t just the physical person that is taken away… It is their laugh, their scent, the things they felt, the way they loved; all this is taken too. I clutch the parcel close to my chest and it feels like you are with me. I’m not letting go of this, ever. I want to have it cryogenically preserved.At night I dream in fragments of you, of kisses and bones, the suggestion of wings, a tapestry of golden hair and fingers. Each morning I place them in my spiral notebook, the one I found in your bedroom, with the ghosts and tatters of memory, all braided and coiled together. There is no space wider than this. I float between this world and the next, between living and dying; between keeping you here and letting you go free. I don’t want to love you anymore, as if there is a choice to make, but then again maybe there is. You are gone, and you shouldn’t be and I am angry with you for a hundred different reasons. And still, grief has a way of finding me wherever it is that I am - in the bathtub, under the washing line, when I am tucking my children into bed. Some days I fear I might disappear into this river of sadness, like there is nothing left ahead of me; there is nothing left up ahead. Somehow an entire month has disappeared in the space of an hour, the longest minute, where everything stood still. When I look back, it all seems further away than a memory. As though the graveyard is merely a reference, existing outside in some far away city to which I am no longer connected.Today our marriage visa arrived back from the American Consulate. I hoped maybe it would tell me whether or not we had been approved. I know it doesn’t matter now, but for eighteen months it was everything. It’s funny how some things just fall away. Tucked inside the envelope was a letter detailing your love for me...You talked about the future as though you held it in your hands. It was there that you could see our lips meeting at the airport when you finally arrived back home in Australia, and the way I looked on our wedding day, like a queen you said, like a queen. It was there you could see the birth of our first child, me reading to you from my first novel, with your head on my lap in a park. It was there you could see yourself playing drunken harmonica and me smiling up at you and nodding yes honey, it is in the right key. We were going to grow old together; you were going to grow old. Did you not see me dreaming of corpses and branches as naked as bones?Some days I like to tell myself that solitude is a new beginning and that time will eventually erase this map of sadness. The truth is I will never be able to stop loving you. I will not let you disappear and leave this place in my heart. It is not a question of memory, or a fear of returning to the past. The problem lies here in the present where you no longer exist. It is the present that latches its arms around mine and insists on pulling me under. It is the present that is everywhere, in everything. At times it takes my breath away, the whirring sound of silence, the absence of your words, of our language. And though I go on speaking so that you may answer back, though I go on shouting so that my voice may reach up to the sky, it seems I am the only witness. Our ghost in the wind has gone quiet now, barely whispering its secrets - your love, my love, beloved.