Who Could Know Then

I wrote this as a surprise gift to my wife on our 10th anniversary of the day we met. This was the first ‘poetic/stream of conciousness piece i ever wrote and the first listening to music.

imho, it reads better with the music as a soundtrack, so click the
song and start reading nice and s l o w, the second refrain, the crescendo should then coincide with the last paragraph.
.

.
.

On Tuesday the ’79 Ford flatbed pick up truck will be carefully driven up the narrow steel ramps and onto the trailer, the rented trailer attached to a U-Haul box van for the long awaited and well deserved trip from Chicago to rural Indiana, the final leg in the long journey to it’s rightful place, the 100 acre family farm.

How could anyone have possibly predicted that this sturdy old truck, that never quit even in the worst cold Chicago could conjure up, that he found on the front line of a local gas station fifteen years ago with a handmade ‘for sale’ sign taped to the windshield, the note written by a thin, weathered man who bought this truck new in 1979, an Iowan farmer who used it daily hauling crops, who needed to sell it sadly because times were tough, who could have known then that this working farm truck would now go back to the soil where it once started its noble life?

Who could know then that this old blue truck would evoke so many memories in her, the farm where she spent so many of her childhood summers, where she would walk the acres holding hands with her playful grandpa Paps tending his peony crop, lose herself for endless hours in the cavernous, dusty hay filled barn, chase chickens around the small wood framed house, help her Grams churn homemade ice cream served with Saltines and end those days on the back of Paps Ford flatbed truck piled with hay and crowded with giggling cousins for a slow, bumpy ride on the gravel road into town?

Who could know then it would spark a romance between a most unlikely couple, she’s barely over five feet tall, he’s six two and lanky, her skin pale and perfect, his a few shades darker, marked, grey eyes, hers the warmest brown, she was Kentucky sweet, engaging and talkative, he’s the king of one liners, an ex New Yorker, he luckily made it out of high school, she has a graduate degree and more friends than any one person should, he’s a loner, she taught violin in the same university for twenty years, he was self employed forever chasing dreams, she was the lead singer in a rock band, he will always be anxious in a crowd of strangers, she had 2 healthy parents, the family reunions hosted hundreds, he had neither and who could know then that she had almost given up all hope of ever finding anyone?

Is it ever too late?

Who could know then as he watched her drive away after a chance meeting that they would ever meet again, he only had scant clues, driving night after night through so many unfamiliar neighborhoods, dark streets and darker alleys, driving in the Ford pick up searching, hoping to find her dented little red Honda parked somewhere and finally, finally on that unusually cool and clear night in May under so many close stars he did find it, leaving his own hand written note on the windshield, hoping?

Who could know then that this ’79 Ford pickup truck, this four wheeled piece of steel with all its myriad moving parts, would become a symbol of their dedication to each other in the face of some difficult times, a steel badge of their unshakeable loyalty, their tender ten year journey together, who could know then that the universe, with all it’s myriad moving parts would extend it’s gentle hand and grant such a random act of kindness?
.
.

And who would want to?
.
 photo thefarm020.jpg

fawn

whatever you fear, whatever you hide,
whatever you carry deep inside
there’s something more than this
October Project

thCAL9B9PJ

on that late lit afternoon amidst the blaring horns sirens rolling steel and rubber of every constant rush hour this city only knows, he saw her now sitting folded into the corner of a familiar doorway the burgundy shroud resting deep into her knees that impossible smallness an almost prayer like silent plea her meditation wishing this world would disappear from view. and as he always did walking his young golden retriever Scout a dog so serene he’d never heard him make a single sound, the closer to this little person in a doorway by itself the bustling street echos ending another ambivalent big city day, and his concern alarm now heightened wondering why this any child was left so alone, his scan for parents but found none.

closer now and details unfold black ballet slippers to black anklet socks delicately edged tiny white lace frill slim cranberry pants, then that ankle bracelet! …. it’s chain spun so finely crafted not by our any human hands sun speaking to each tiny charm glistening. …and hesitant now not ever wanting to intrude, Scout answered his questions a gentle nose nudging her knee as all good dogs will,

‘oh im so sorry, he has to say hello to everyone’,

and the slowest of motions the shroud lifted its head as if in a slumber waking finally eyes to eyes nose to Scout’s nose her hands instinctively moving involuntarily they found his golden jowls, standing motionless accepting her slow fingers moving a golden fur caress, the shroud so deep he could not yet see her face. and in a ‘time will forever stand still moment’ forever be etched in his memory, the burgundy shroud slowly lifted falling back revealing her pale skin colored paler by the blazing embers of the extinguishing afternoon sun this deliberate ray reaching her darkened corner of the doorway,

his concern its own slow fade seeing her narrow face she was no child after all, and in human years twenty something but as in the swift glint of brown in her so grateful eyes raising to meet the sun… a whiteness then the infinity white of everything all knowing and all our kindness in every universe that ever lived, hers a timeless and slow smile reply,

‘yes…he does.’

he stood there letting this moment live as long as she wanted Scout turned to leave he followed and as so many of us his slow walk away was followed in doubt, a disbelief that this was not just a dream awake so double quickstepping around the block with Scout trailing. maybe to relive a moment that should not require repeating …….maybe to speak another word that didn’t need speaking, arriving as the sun had already fallen behind every building in its way the doorway now darkened and she was gone.

whatever you love, whatever you give,
whatever you think you need to live
there’s something more than this
.
.
.

Mary of thorns, of roses

Mary you’re covered in roses
you’re covered in ruin
you’re covered in secrets
you’re covered in treetops
you’re covered in birds
who can sing a million songs
without any words.

‘Mary’, Patti Griffin

roses 5-14 007

For as long as anyone could remember she was there every spring in the same spot, her own safe corner of the garden center answering questions about the roses she tended wearing her familiar garb a uniform, the well worn wide brimmed straw hat circled with a thin black silk ribbon, an oversized faded to almost white denim shirt sleeves twice rolled neatly, the tail of the billowing shirt reaching mid thigh her torso hidden, loose fitting, faded and frayed Levis folded to just above her ankles showing white cotton socks, black canvas Keds the white rubber banding forever soil stained. When she wasn’t wearing her trademark flower imprinted canvas gloves her right hand held a cigarette and it was only then you might notice her hand trembling slightly as she slowly brought it down to rest on her knee as she sat low on her small stool as the smoke slowly exhaled and curled up around her head.

From a distance her narrow face barely visible hidden behind the once flaming red loosely curled hair now muted with grey rested shoulder length, the wind occasionally blowing stray ringlets sideways across her dark perfectly round faux wood framed sunglasses never seemed a bother, never elicited a wipe away response as if it was all planned that way. She moved slowly as if scripted, gestures planned in advance leaving no room for error with her graceful posture she didn’t walk as much as she glided, a pale shadow sliding across the pavement and between crowded containers of the tender young rose plants she adored.

She was a carefully crafted enigma carving out a living doing what she loved, talking of roses to any who would listen even as she did her best to become invisible. No one knew where she lived or where she came from, a human without a history even to the many longtime employees she was simply known as The Rose Lady and that’s exactly how she wanted it be.

No one knew she wrote either but him, writing page after page of tightly composed hand penned black inked script, the penmanship so disciplined almost machine like and impossible to decipher except by her, exactly how she wanted it to be. Her stories each accompanied an intricate impossibly detailed companion pen and ink drawing, the technical skill beyond reproach.

roses 5-14 009

They would meet once a week during that spring and early summer sitting on the roughed granite steps to her favorite place, her refuge, a tribute garden full of only roses perfectly designed in the classic formal English style she went there often to wipe away the world and disappear, become invisible again. This almost secret place was in plain view on a busy street but there were rarely any visitors except for the old man who tended the roses and meticulously manicured the gravel path before he left leaving it perfect placing every small grey rounded stone where it should be.

It was there amidst the safety of everything that was familiar, under the protective cloak of the expected and the perfect order that never disappointed that Mary took a chance and did the unexpected which for her was nothing less than a blindfold leap into the abyss. It was there, sitting side by side with her pages and drawings between them their eyes adjusting to the dimming light, that uncertain bright to near dark transition that Mary began revealing her story to him slowly, inaudible at first as he gently cradled the drawing she could barely hand him. Even as her voice slowly gathered it’s strength it was never more than a low single note monotone effortlessly reciting her stream of conciousness testimony as if rehearsed daily and committed to memory, the only punctuation her breathing, a brief pause as her narrow frame rose to meet the next paragraph.

Staring straight ahead sitting on the steps that late spring afternoon as the noise of the busy street behind them faded he heard nothing but the soft floating sound of her voice, like the smoke from the cigarette that she held in her unsteady hand it enveloped them both. It was only when he began focusing on the drawing, the twisted bodies and anguished expressions represented in painful detail did he emerge from his own trance and begin to hear her words.

Mary did her very best to disguise the pain and trauma contained in her passages, her controlled emotion a rage compressed, the matter of fact delivery another possible detour offered but nothing could hide the horrible truth when he finally listened through it all to hear her words, listened as she told story after heartbreaking story of the violence and torment she experienced first by her father and then an abusive husband, finally leaving him her destination a secret.

In awe of her courage, her truth rubbed raw his own childhood wounds never revealed, he felt helpless so close to her pain when he could never confront his own. Wanting to help in some small way reassure, struggling to find words he found none so he sat there on the steps beside her and simply listened thinking he had let her down, that he’d failed her somehow. He couldn’t know it then but there was nothing more healing for them both than his silence.
.
one of her favorite songs…..
.

written March 2012

fawn

whatever you fear, whatever you hide,
whatever you carry deep inside
there’s something more than this
October Project

thCAL9B9PJ

on that late lit afternoon amidst the blaring horns sirens rolling steel and rubber of every constant rush hour this city only knows, he saw her now sitting folded into the corner of a familiar doorway the burgundy shroud resting deep into her knees that impossible smallness an almost prayer like silent plea her meditation wishing this world would disappear from view. and as he always did walking his young golden retriever Scout a dog so serene he’d never heard him make a single sound, the closer to this little person in a doorway by itself the bustling street echos ending another ambivalent big city day, and his concern alarm now heightened wondering why this any child was left so alone, his scan for parents but found none.

closer now and details unfold black ballet slippers to black anklet socks delicately edged tiny white lace frill slim cranberry pants, then that ankle bracelet! …. it’s chain spun so finely crafted not by our any human hands sun speaking to each tiny charm glistening. …and hesitant now not ever wanting to intrude, Scout answered his questions a gentle nose nudging her knee as all good dogs will,

‘oh im so sorry, he has to say hello to everyone’,

and the slowest of motions the shroud lifted its head as if in a slumber waking finally eyes to eyes nose to Scout’s nose her hands instinctively moving involuntarily they found his golden jowls, standing motionless accepting her slow fingers moving a golden fur caress, the shroud so deep he could not yet see her face. and in a ‘time will forever stand still moment’ forever be etched in his memory, the burgundy shroud slowly lifted falling back revealing her pale skin colored paler by the blazing embers of the extinguishing afternoon sun this deliberate ray reaching her darkened corner of the doorway,

his concern its own slow fade seeing her narrow face she was no child after all, and in human years twenty something but as in the swift glint of brown in her so grateful eyes raising to meet the sun… a whiteness then the infinity white of everything all knowing and all our kindness in every universe that ever lived, hers a timeless and slow smile reply,

‘yes…he does.’

he stood there letting this moment live as long as she wanted Scout turned to leave he followed and as so many of us his slow walk away was followed in doubt, a disbelief that this was not just a dream awake so double quickstepping around the block with Scout trailing. maybe to relive a moment that should not require repeating …….maybe to speak another word that didn’t need speaking, arriving as the sun had already fallen behind every building in its way the doorway now darkened and she was gone.

whatever you love, whatever you give,
whatever you think you need to live
there’s something more than this
.
.
.

in feather and cuts

The clouds are breaking climbing weightless through the storm.
There is no world worth another glance, her flight of new regrets
an exhalted reach for that slice of sun.

It’s not heaven she remembers but warmth across her naked skin
a soft breeze surrender, blood red serenity only the cutter craves
hoping any moment might be her last.

Pale androgynous waif she sits alone shrouded in feather and cuts
shades drawn dark, a desperate heart cloaked in its own protection
the littered mattress her valiant refuge.

Paired sparrows announce the new day at her empty window feeder,
she hears only his abrupt departure. It’s not heaven she remembers
but his fervent lips across her naked skin.

dark-angel-21114

Written March 2013

So I went to the secondhand store

thCA5JZWUY

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.

Written January 2012, edited.

the cruel reminder

crocus abd bees 2012 002

Sunless skies, endless grey clouded over grey
crusted snow creating havoc for crocus shoots
struggling to make their stand.
Winter, a slow death by a thousand windy cuts
an imperceptable emotional fade and they speak
so few words between them now.
Purple and orange in full bloom swathed across
front yard lawns stirring expectations, memories
of their languid summer days
that started warm and ended warmer. Teal skies
uninterrupted steady sun their sleeveless shirts
and moist sweaty skin, her
sweet whispers assured his often troubled heart.
So many purple and orange reasons to be hopeful
but March, the cruel reminder.