dear friends…i thought it was important to make clear that this poem is a story, it is fiction and it has nothing to do with my day to day, loving relationship with my partner Scout and i. i guess i muddied the waters a little bit when i spoke about my momentary melancholy, it happens to me from time to time for no apparent reason. i just took the opportunity to put those feelings into words, and that’s what this story is.
so sorry if i created any confusion.
this poem is meant to be read as this song plays in the background
even in the small apartment they shared
he could now carefully manipulate his body
so that no part of him ever touched her in passing
in the cramped kitchen, reaching into the fridge
at the sink, rushing to get ready for work
as if her skin didn’t grieve
the absense of his touch, as if she
couldn’t truly remember when he didn’t need a reason
to press up against her, just because he needed to
as if her lips, didn’t miss parting for his
she’ll admit to being slow
to fully absorb, what had changed between them
or maybe it was just her easy nature again
smoothing over the rough spots
blaming herself, for whatever might be wrong
at first she thought
it was just another mood he was in, a phase
she would wake up any morning now, and this could all be gone
back to when they shared more than expenses and a place to sleep gone… without a word spoken about any of it
it’s not that he was unkind, and it’s
not that he would say things that would upset her, he knew better he just never said anything right anymore….
yet they both played their charaade in public, it was
when they were alone together, that the silence screamed loudest
in the dimly lit rooms,
filled with 40 watt bulbs and questions that could never be asked end tables crowded with yellowing memories, framed pictures of their early years together, smiles and endless chatter during their torrid romance when everything seemed possible
when… he said everything right, all the words
she ever dreamed of hearing from a man
all she ever imagined a man might make her body feel
and now he flinches, at an accidental brush across his arm
like her presence… is an imposition in his life
now, it’s a fear that grips her chest
when she dares to face the possibility of this truth
she’s learned… she takes comfort in the hollow pain
her loneliness a reliable lover now, she stays
because it is far less frightening, than what she doesn’t know . . .
because no love should ever just fade…
there is no reconciliation in apathy
no healing in the cruel silence of ambivalence
an unsteady self is left shaken
attempting to answer questions that pleaded to be
but were never answered
deserves more than
a cowardly exit . .
i had no intention of writing this, as we were
driving to the farm on Friday these words just
began arriving. why?… i have no idea because i
haven’t thought about these memories in decades.
oh, the mystery and wonder of poetry….
so Scout took the wheel and it all spilled out,
before we reached the farm. everything told here
is true. i changed her name, it didn’t seem fair
i don’t often put the song i write to, up top,
but this song IS part of this story more than
any other poem i’ve written. it was the only song
i listened to that summer when it was released.
as always, the words follow the slow tempo. ty.
my Puerto Rican Princess
you wrote such exquisite poetry then
oh, my peaceful flower child
where, where do your words reside today?
we loved each other, our senior year
so immersed, in Tolkien and Kazantzakis
so inseparable, a promised ever after in our eyes
so untouchable, to a world beyond our view
the purity and innocence, of a first true love
our reflected light so intense, we outshone the sun
we were just 16, the only moment that truly mattered
was whatever moment we were in
born a little too late for Woodstock,
we were still committed and it was always
about Peace, Love and Understanding with us
and oh, did we wear our hippy proud!
i can still remember, the whole bunch of us
hangin’ out, smokin’ out and singin’ out loud!
while you braided my waist length hair
right there, on the worn steps of our high school
an hour later, you gave your Valedictorian speech
hell…there wasn’t a dry eye in the house
oh Lola, you made your boyfriend so damn proud!
then, just one week later…you broke my heart
walking those miles to your apartment
with a flower, I always picked for your hair
you and him were holding hands and laughing
the flower died…right where it dropped
gone was your ankle length, silken skirt
gone was the sheer, embroidered Indian blouse
and the peace sign necklace I saved up for
who was this girl, with cut off shorts and t shirt?
and so began my summer of sorrow, that year in ‘71
and so began a lifelong habit, retreating in silence
when the pain becomes so unbearably real
there was no peace, no love…only my fountain of tears
and then about ten years later,
i shut the lights and locked the door
to my little shop and went for my run
and no matter the temperature or weather
wearing shorts, sneaks, headband and ponytail
i ran and ran and ran, ‘til I just couldn’t run no more
hey man, I was committed…….to never being hurt again
but there was no peace, no love and no one to understand
and as I was bent over, trying to catch my breath
under the arch at Washington Square
this woman who seemed so excited to see me
hugged me right through, all the sweat on my chest!
‘how are you, it’s so good to see you! how long has it been?’
and then like an electric shock, thunderbolt to my heart
i thought, ‘oh God no, my Puerto Rican Princess,
where, where, where did you go?’
oh sweet Lola, my faded flower child
you probably don’t remember saying this
as we sat down, and the bottle came out of your purse,
‘Aragon, I made such a mistake leaving you. I’m really sorry’
all I could say, after us both taking a hefty swig,
‘please, please tell me, you took that full scholarship to Vassar’
her blank stare said, ‘do you wanna’ see some pics of my kids?’
so as one pain began to heal… another wound took its place
and her promised call…never did ring
now I don’t pray all that often, but i knelt that night,
‘please, please, help her come to her senses. help her see!
or send someone to save her..….then send someone to save me’
throughout this decade long romance
our shared serendipitous journey home
and our day in, day out conversation
the ups and downs, living this crazy life each day
you see through me like no one else ever would
every imperfection, my softest underbelly on display
i’m trusting you, more than i trust myself sometimes
your unconditional love, an abundant never ending gift
we figured out our role reversal many tears ago
you, that valiant hunter gatherer with a heart so bold
me, a nester, seed spreader with a heart so easily bruised
tradition? because only you and i know what works for us
and you know i never want to be your burden
but you know when i retreat to my silent shadows
and it doesn’t mean you said anything wrong
but darlin,’ whenever i get quiet and close my doors
…so i need to ask you for a favor
take a minute…look me in the eyes,
say…please say those three words
that will make my world all right
. ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’
we all got our own funny moods
i’ve got mine, woman you’ve got yours too
just trust in me, like i trust in you
as long as we’ve been together
it should be so easy to do
if you feel like a second read, play the song, pick up the
slow tempo and the first crescendo in the music will sync up
with the end of the poem. imho the best cover of this classic tune.
She arrives looseygoosey through the door light on her toes
despite a few days of separation, for years our weekly ritual.
Our eyes meet grey to grey and her skin color mine, though
reaching down to kiss her forehead seemed easier that day.
Hands could always effortlessly wrap around
my fingertips meeting at her sometimes ponytail,
or mingling among those tangled golden curls.
And when did her head snug in at my chest when we hugged?
Like the kitchen door frame penciled ever higher in our old house,
maybe our bodies will mark those imperceptable passages now?
Time. It seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn’t.
My first poem
written April 2012
revised Aarch 2013
My first painting class at Parsons School of Design in New York thirty years ago was in no uncertain terms utterly terrifying. I really had no idea what to expect, nightime class so many people easels a teacher who was a painter not good in groups less so with strangers, the introductions and the quasi interest in your goals mumbling through mine unintelligable, a blathering stream of ‘is that really what I said’ bad and a request to ‘say it again and louder please this time so we can all hear you’ would have sent me straight for the exit.
Thankfully that didn’t happen the teacher I noticed immediately was himself fidgeting, moving his head in fact everything seemed to be in rubbery motion all limbs and digits simultaneously. You might, if your little self speech was rehearsed for days crafted refined be a little offended because Paul seemed to want to move past and get this over with as soon as possible and let’s start to paint, as much as I did.
I’m not sure if anyone else saw this, I didn’t ask but I did take notice impossible for me not to a sympatico there with Paul, a resonance of familiar that eased my anxiety allowed me to breath again to settle in and feel maybe just maybe I could do this, after all.
He was the best teacher I ever had I grew to love him as only a drought thirsty student could love a teacher who offered so much so freely. His way was gentle, cautious always saying a lot less than others wanted that’s what I heard in whispers during breaks. Everything was a question they said, nothing concrete and how good a teacher could he be if he didn’t tell you exactly how to paint?
He told me everything in his questions.
The only rules the absolutes were these:
Sketch.. sketch.. sketch.. and look, always.
If you get stuck turn the canvass to the wall.
As we studied the masters he would point his dirty fingernail at strokes of paint and say furrowed brow emphatically over and over,
‘Nothing on that canvas is an accident!’
These rules these truths on painting The 3 Rules of Paul I carried with me cherished throughout my life, always watching observing absorbing, filing pictures in my head for recall later. Patience like painting is indeed a virtue a gift to yourself and others as you try negotiate communicate the trickiness of everyday relationships every word what we do and why is important.
Nothing is invaluable enough to waste.
And just in case you’re wondering I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention because it all sounds so perfect on paper, in retrospect it wasn’t and won’t be. Hardly. There’s human here flesh and bones and mistakes, far too many to list here. It’s just that I try hard, I’m persistent but when I inevitably fail fall short the harshest critic my own formidable enemy myself and it’s been a continuous voice over playing in my background for as long as I can remember.
And so it goes with writing now a new craft passion I didn’t know I had hadn’t even considered there was no forewarning that I could paint with words and sketch with letters because words were not my vocabulary. I’m just a picture person or I was just that person until fairly recently. It was all about images an impression pictures imprinted for recall at a later date but now words phrases and paragraphs are attaching themselves sticking to the pictures like Post It Notes on a magazine page. They glue meld and are inseperable now a new language an eye opening, what the hell is this discovery that I’m beginning to like.
So there’s a process now developing I’m recognizing the repeat as absolute as anything I’ve ever known, as familiar as my fingerprints.
I just had no idea whatsoever that the same rules would apply no clue that it would be this universal so easily applicable to sketching with letters and painting with words. Words…. I’m beginninng to wear them breaking them in getting acclimated and comfy. I let them resonate now color an otherwise gloomy outlook depressed.
Words, a self comfort I didn’t know I had.
I sketch now, write paragraphs fill up templates save and preview turn the canvas to the wall stuck and walk away, not all paragraphs are paintings they won’t be, they can’t be at least not for me, sketching always. Paintings are definitive a statement and over time they begin to take shape layers edit, reveal themselves and feel complete this essay. Sketching is an exploration an urgent attempt to mark a moment make mistakes ask questions and turn the page and ask some more.
Painting the process form follows function sketching has always been solitary singular done in private not shared everything quiet and still in the slow of the night. And as comfortable a process as this has become for me now something new has emerged sharing written words, I’m beginning to wear it well a little a day beginning to like it and am trusting the results.
If I sound wide eyed it’s because I am, there’s a revelation here and I might be in awe of what I’ve become so late in my day. I could try and explain its significance profound but I can’t so I’ll tell what I did today instead. It snowed heavy in Chicago an inch an hour grey sloppy roads unplowed unpassable.
So I went to the secondhand store to buy some clothes.
It’s a barn of a place a brick box bare bones flourescent lights aisles and rack after rack few mirrors. There are always people there I watch them observe as always they’re busy in their heads moving hangers and studying prices making calculations and compromises.
I didn’t head for the dark stuff today my worn out route memorized and I left with 2 giant shopping bags there’s a sale most everyday 10 shirts sheatshirts vest and some hoodies and less than $65 came out of my pocket. A bargain by any measure and maybe a statement too because none of these used new clothes as is my usual habit not a single one was black.
Not a single detail of the apartment
renovation would Charlie leave unnoticed,
relaxed in her own skin so comfortably deliberate
in her decisions, aligning tradesman
one by one day after ten hour day.
Sharing space in the small one bedroom condo
close quarters for even one small person,
the work would continue without a hitch and at a pace
that would make a seasoned developer envious.
Making allies not enemies the path of least resistance
that easy way about her a trait developed early used often,
her familiarity never breeding contempt.
Her husky laugh was always a welcome distraction,
she was your friend despite knowing little about her.
The sienna brown eyed gaze and a belief in every word,
no pretense in her warm eyes her simple fashion as honest.
Every facet of her life so carefully considered
and if missteps were made, they never showed.
Dark brown hair, parted air dryed and tossed
framed glowing mediteranean skin, no makeup.
For years the neighbors saw her walking the coiffed Shitzu
her only constant companion, both of short stature in such
a big world sharing such a quiet confidence between them,
wherever it was they both belonged.
Not a single life detail would Charlie ever leave to chance,
simple smart styled furnishings had a purpose and reason
a reflection of a life lived unattached.
Quiet solitary rarely a sound heard, that only in
ocassional hallway passing did neighbors learn
that Charlie no longer lived alone.
Unannounced as was her habit, nonetheless a choice
and a chance taken that would change everything.
Her first love, Charlie was fearless.
As planned, the many details welcoming her partner
expanded closetspace, cozy double bathroom sinks
2 leather barstools the kitchen island
the surface a finely polished black granite custom ordered,
all perfectly executed and completed on time as expected.
Forever an early riser never a shared kitchen
Charlie slipped easily into her new morning ritual, disciplined
brewing extra coffee a place setting cut organic fruit, yogurt.
A favorite though, Charlie left scribbled
notes on linen cards handmade enclosed in its matching envelope.
Reminders, loving misivs handwritten in her steady penmanship,
leaving little doubt of her devotion.
Waking up later than usual that day Charlie already long gone,
staring at that drawer already overflowing a year full of notes,
the questions and doubts already answered
the backpack filled regrets set aside, the decision to leave made.
Closing the drawer and locking the door behind her, the love note left
exactly where she always found it.