Last Cast of the Day

I wonder what would happen if you just
ran into one another someday.
It’s not going to happen, but what if?
Would your chest jump a little,
gassed on adrenalin or maybe bile?
Would you get all prickly around
your ears and face as blood
pushed all the elevator buttons?

Would you turn and cross the street,
like you meant to do that all along,
never looking at him, rather than
present your face to his in a guarded
“Hi, old friend” moment?
Would you even recognize one another,
after age and life and lies have made like
locusts or glaciers on our his faces?

Would you be okay with an every-five-years
reunion of your class of two? He’d be the one
with the sticker on his chest that said
“Hi, my name is …” since he seldom knows
who he is anymore other than old.
I don’t know why he wonders these things
from time to time. Maybe it’s the hopeful,
unworthy masochist in him.

You know, the one like me, who each day
casts lines of memory and imagination
into the dark ocean of time,
never knowing what I’ll haul in.
Today it’s been muddy, writhing
questions and wonders. That’s how it goes
when you fish for words and hope.
There’s always another chance tomorrow.

Winter Blues

 

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The shadows on the snow are blue,
I think. Are they shivering cold
or shaking in the wind lying there
on that white expanse left unbroken all winter?
I’m sure I’d be blue if I went all cursive
on that pristine page. Instead,
I sit here in an off-gray pallor,
the dermatological equivalent of
an inside voice, while I interview shadows,
present and past, outside my double-paned
Emily Dickinson-autograph model world view.

An orphan orange leaf races blindly across
the tree shadows, like it’s frantic to
be gathered up in their arms again,
while I gather all these
different hues of blues,
all the azures and ultramarines,
cobalts and cyans, sorrows and desolations,
and scatter them like leaves
of complimentary colors across
this snowfield beneath my hand.

The shadows are growing longer now,
wider and darker, too, turning
to indigo and eventually, I would guess,
to midnight, when they’ll be near-black,
mourning the passing of this
sun-bright day, when I could sit
and compare all my blues to theirs
and not once feel sad about.
No, not even once.

Maude Obsession

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Maude Fealy, Photo via Wikipedia

He borrowed her photo from the Internet.
It depicted a beautiful girl from 1908.
She’d infected him with an infatuation
for which he sought no cure and
he carried her around in his phone
the way previous generations kept the photo
of the pretty girl that came with their wallets.
“Sure she was my girlfriend, once,” they’d say,
and quickly slap shut the leather,
lest the guys looked too closely.

He couldn’t do that with Maude.
She obviously was from another era,
though had beauty enough for any.
Whenever the lonelies embraced him,
or the trout pouts and phonies
ignored his goodness, he dialed up Maude.
“She’s not my girlfriend,” he’d say,
and slowly click shut the app
after one last longing look at her.
Because, of course, she really was.

Dust Running Up and Down the Road

What I wouldn’t give to see
dust running up and down
the road today. Feeling
its gritty fingers on my cheek
would bring those old tears
to my eyes, or at least
that’s what I’d blame.
We used to walk
in that warm breeze,
blinking a code only the lonely
might understand, if they was
to take their eyes off the ground,
or turn them around
from the dark, blinded inside.
I saw a picture of us,
side-by-side on that walk,
sun behind us,
those dusty old days, too.
And your soft memory
did dust’s job
again.

Heard the great John Hiatt’s “Dust Down a Country Road” today. And then my heart heard this…

So Long, So Long

How is it I get so dizzy
just looking down
from so low a prospect as this?
Why does the pain
of falling from here—
the chronic falling, not
the soon forgotten landings—
strike me as so great
and so long?
Maybe it’s the climb back
to what I’d laughingly call the top—
if I laughed much anymore—
that helps me forget that abrupt stop
at the bottom. It’s an aching,
a back-breaking trek, despite
its short distance. And because
I don’t look down,
fearful always of the misstep,
the inevitable error in my oft-faulty footing,
it’s so long.
Someday I wish to keep climbing,
ascending to the heights
of the smiling ones, whose anti-frowns
ensnare birdsongs from below.
I’d never look down again,
never contemplate that dizzying sight,
the speedy final fall, that one-way flight
from which there’d be no bounce.
Just the close-eyed bliss
like a fleeting last kiss
of one final adieu
and so long.

Unforgettable

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“Okay, Dad,” Rebecca Swann said to Ray Bentley as she showed him old photographs, this one her late mother and Ray’s wife of fifty years, “who’s this woman?”

“I dunno, I can’t make it out and I don’t remember anyway,” Ray said with a toss of his hand, tuning toward the wall of the nursing home’s common room.

“It’s Mom, Dad, don’t you remember?” Rebecca said and put the photo back into the pile of Ray’s black and white forgotten memories.

Rebecca saw a small group enter the common room, touring the facility as a potential home for the elderly woman toddling along with her walker, when she heard her father take two deep sniffs, saw him turn, and watched him beam as he blurted out, “Helen?”

The elderly woman brought her disheartened gaze up from the floor and saw not an 78-year-old man seated at the table in front of her, but rather the 19-year-old who had given her the brand of perfume she wore for the past forty-eight years, the one called Unforgettable, and she smiled a teary smile, broke away from her children, crying “Ray!”

As someone whose certain memories seem to be sifting away more each day, I was moved by Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word FORGOTTEN to express the power certain crazy stimulants have on memories you would think long lost. I love how that works.

Song and Dance

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He never really lied, he said,
just never turned on the lights
to their unspoken truths.
The dancer told him his songs
sounded so true to her, she
made him swear they coalesced
from next to nothing.
He confessed they spilled from
a dark place he dreamed nightly,
where a make-believe dancehall ball
scattered images like snowflakes
that would melt in the light of day.
The singer longed for just one dance,
but the dancer held fast to her darkness,
there in the chairs along the wall,
where she waited to hear each
new song. His lies and all.

A free write from this morning. I can’t figure it out, so I’ll leave that to you. Photo: Disco Ball in Blue by Sarah from Brizzzzzle.