As we walked slowly through the Forum the Coliseum receding into the late afternoon, the Virgins stood patiently as befits a priestess trained to avoid the stares of passing men, even tourists such as we were, the columns staring down reminding us of our youth
despite the birthdays that we celebrated with the joy of togetherness, and the nagging knowledge that we were another year closer to that moment we refuse to acknowledge, aware always of its growing proximity.
We stare back at the Coliseum, as the sun slides behind its walls, and as the vendors selling all manner of items the buyer will regret in mid-flight home pack up for the day, I imagine Caesar pausing in thought then, sneering, turning his thumb down.
For years all I wanted was a working familial cloaking device. The kind the Romulans had in the early days of Star Fleet. It was easy to feel overwhelmed amid them, teaming together for holidays, reunions. I never could, I never did disappear though she felt my sometime silence oppressive. Now that I am part of that admixture, I have found the device and cannot for the life of me figure out how to turn it off in the presence of my own too small and shrinking family.
She carefully hangs her life
on the tautly stretched line
across her small back yard.
A sun faded floral housedress
a pair of bib overalls
knees worn white on
the kitchen linoleum,
cracked and dingy.
She waits patiently
for Humphrey Bogart to arrive
and carry her up
the river of her memory.
The chicken threatens
to burn in the cramped oven
and she is again without napkins.
He will be home soon
his six pack chilling
in the old Kelvinator
and she feels the slap
on her bruised cheek
as she fluffs her pillow
where she will soon hide
her purpled face.
Recently appeared in Aurora, Down in the Dirt Vol. 167 (2020)
The Good news about rom-coms is that Hollywood (and occasionally Paris, Lisbon and Madrid, but never Berlin) crank them out endlessly, and each contains that grain or two of truth, like salt rubbed in the wound of a failed first marriage, and the balm of the discovery of true and abiding love. The small pail of rom-com truths is easily carried, sometimes off a too strong wind, but it is never enough to build a dune to hold back the waves of emotion that attend the most fragile and passionate of all human relationships. Yet we sit, smile, and watch hoping that this one’s grain is the one that tips the scale ever so slowly in our favor.
I thought about sending you a postcard, one with the Riviera in the background or from Vieux Nice, with its teeming life, after all, we did have 30 years together. We never came here, I haven’t been back to the places we went together since they, like so much of what we shared, I left to you. I figured you needed that more than I did, that you said you felt nothing for me anymore I still felt much, good, bad, but never indifferent, so you got it all, though to you, I suspect, even the good turned sour with time. I couldn’t think of what to write on the postcard so to save us both time, and you the effort, I simply put a stamp on it and threw it in the trash container along the beach.
Today is my 15th wedding anniversary, and that merits a special posting to the person who has completed me in ways I never imagined possible.
The sheer inadequacy of words
is made painfully manifest today.
I grasp at words: love, passion, joy
and each still falls short of its intended mark.
There is a moment each morning,
each night as the lights go out,
and every moment in between
when I am love, hope and joy,
but separate me from you
and I am none of those things fully.
Fifteen years ago I said to all gathered
that I do, and ever since I say
to myself, I am so lucky that I did.
Early this morning as I drove through the mist that clings to Portland in March like a child’s yellow slicker, I thought of you, home, asleep on our bed, my side tidy, no faint indentation of life, and I thought of the thousands who have died to date in Iraq, who never again will leave a faint indentation in any bed. It is far easier thinking of you, of regretting the miles between us at this moment, but knowing that I will shortly bridge those miles and we will tonight indent our bed, that two thousand miles is little more than an inconvenience, while many of them are no more that a dozen miles outside of countless towns; but the effect of that short distance is infinite and they can only indent the thawing earth beneath the granite stones.
For a while, I will be using Thursday’s posts to feature poems I previously had published. Today’s, Early Morning previously appeared in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, (2008).
He said to her, “you know it really irritates me how you always seem to repeat yourself. Say it once and that’s enough.” She paused, thought about his comment, then said, “You know, despite what you say, I don’t, I don’t really, but nuance is something that always seems just beyond your comprehension.” He bristled, “You could be more subtle, you know, perhaps it is always on the thin edge of my comprehension, but gets pushed way by the repetitive battering you feel the need to impart, over and over.” She smiled, “I doubt it, I truly and sincerely doubt it.”
When we finally allow night to settle in around us, and we curl together in anticipation of sleep, we fit comfortably, but with no less passion than when we first did this, but a passion tempered by less need for flame, more for warmth and a gentle caress. We could not have anticipated this, and still it seems quite natural, the fulfillment of the promises we exchanged, these vows held sacrosanct and beyond value. In the morning, when we repeat this, we know that from that moment the day still holds infinite promise.
In Tibet there are more than 80 words to describe states of consciousness, several words to explain the sound of prayer flags rustling in a Himalayan breeze that reaches up to the crest of the peaks that lick at the slowly gathering clouds, all of these words never uttered. There are no words in Tibet to describe the soft brush of your lips across my cheek, your hair pressed into my chest. There are no words in Tibet to describe the faint bouquet of soap and morning coffee as she dries herself slowly in the mirror that runs along the sinks. There are no words in Tibet to describe the sound of her laugh half giggle as we watch the kitten roll on her back, paws up reaching for the mote of dust dancing on the heat rising from the fireplace, pressed down by the lazily spinning ceiling fan. There are no words in Tibet to describe her eyes as they dart after the Monarch that flits above the deep purple Sedum that stands in silent prayer to the sun. There are no words in Tibet to describe how she cringes at the sight of the buck lying alongside the road eviscerated by the fender of the car, long gone, his horn buried in the shallow dirt. There are no words in Tibet to describe the ripples of her spine as I run my finger down her back while she curls, grasping at the margins of sleep. There are no words in Tibet for all of these, no words to fill the room, to blanket the lumpy mattress on which I sit staring at the blank screen of the TV, reflecting the neon light of the 24 hour diner that flashes through the gauze curtains of room 4218 of the Hyatt, merely the echo of another plane lifting out of the San Jose airport.