Afraid of Being Afraid of the Dark

Here in the darkness, we all look alike.
Yet we fear that which we cannot see.
If we reach out to explore more than
what we hide or hide from,
we might find whatever differences
we sense are actually differences we share.

I wonder what would happen if we conquered
our fears, raised the shades, opened our eyes,
unlocked our doors and allowed a new day
into our rooms. Perhaps we’d discover
it isn’t one another we need fear,
but the darkness within which we cowered,
covers over our heads,
pillows muffling our ears and minds
we kept imprisoned, locked away
by our own intentions.

It’s fear that compels us to conceal
ourselves from the known and unknown,
fears of being hurt in which
we not only hurt ourselves,
but the shadow-shrouded world
we hope would just go away.
My fear is it already has and
now we’re really alone the dark.

The Search Continues

I’ve been searching for something
my whole life, but if you stopped
and asked what my goal, my hoped-for was,
I’d likely give you the same kind
of twitchy, unfocused look as
any other liar. I’d give you some answer,
firm as granite or flimsy as fog.
But, in truth, that answer’s proven
as elusive, as out-of-reach as
that for which I’ve searched.

It’s worn me down over all this time,
and the only truth I’ve ever found
is this: Life’s one long crawl
toward a shiny something that
turns out to be nothing more
than a mirror reflecting the fact
I’ve spent my life digging
for nothing more than a clear look
at who I am and what I’ve become.
And I haven’t captured that yet.

What Can I Get You?

Would you let me
buy you a drink?
Or are you one
who partakes alone,
by the TV’s light
with the sound
turned down?

I wouldn’t even
have to sit 
this closetoyou.
That’d make me
uncomfortable, too.
Though I don’t
hear too well
in a bar.

I can’t remember
if you’re one of those
pugnacious drunks
or if the wolf
you turn loose on
some booze’s buzz
is a puppy like mine.
My spirit puppy.

I ginned up the courage
to ask, since I’m
just talking to
a piece of paper
and a poem’s always
been my go-to
cheap date.

Here’s my daily shot of spirits. The kind of spirits that possess me and communicate things through me I’d never have the sand to say. Or even think to. Mopey old spirits thirsty for something you can’t pour from a flagon. Unless said vessel is a heart.

It Might Mean All It Might Mean

Still don’t know what Love means,
even after all these years.
When I was a kid, I thought
it was something like devotion,
like I was devoted to my parents.
But it wasn’t really.

As a teen I thought Love was
something like that emotional,
romantic and sexual connection,
that feeling of excitement
you experience when you touch,
or you get lucky enough to
press your flesh against
(or some other preposition)
the object of your affection.

As a father, it was all about
providing for and protecting
those people you’d call my loved ones.
I was never too good at any
of what might be Love, except
what actually could be obsession.

Maybe Love is all those things,
but I still don’t know for sure.
I am sure it’s something close
to what my brown-eyed girl gave me
just about her whole loving life.
But that’s dogs for you.

I took a line from Ray LaMontagne’s song Jolene and Annie Fuller’s prompt photo, closed my eyes and just wrote. The results are iffy, but the experience of discovery is always a blast. You might say I love it.

Black-Eyed Susans and Brown-Eyed Suzie

Source: WeHeartIt

I sat on the back steps, the afternoon sun on my face and a six-pack sitting beside me, keeping me company in the afternoon chill. It was the first day of Spring and my fancy had turned, as it always had, to thoughtless love.

Not my thoughtlessness, though. I had plenty of thoughts. Probably one for each swallow of beer and the beer wasn’t helping drown them, as if it ever really does.

According to the TV weather guy, the Sun was about to come back across the Equator from its Winter place. So I started thinking of Her again.

Okay, I was thoughtless, but that was years ago and she never really understood how I felt.

“I never knew,” she said the day I told her. It was in a tone that carried with it a sense of lost possibilities. No, lost probabilities. She’d already left her longtime fiancé and moved on to someone she said opened her up to a new life that most certainly wouldn’t include me.

All those years, I played the honorable soldier, and now the resigned swain. So I swallowed that bitter pill, washing it down with plenty of beer.

But every year around this time she would walk that sinuous walk of hers back into my consciousness. I always said it was because the sap was running, but I didn’t necessarily mean in the maple trees. I’d hear a song, almost any song, and form some sort of connection between its lyrics and us. Even though there never was or would be a Capital “U” Us.

The only Us that existed in my life was me and my Border Collie, Suzie. Okay, I’ll admit to naming Suzie with just enough of my Spring obsession’s name to make myself miserable, but she looked like a Suzie, so that’s who she was.

“Suzie, you fluff-butt, stop digging over there,” I called to the flagging tail flying over a spray of moist soil where I planted the flowers that She liked. Of course, a dog, even a PhD.-level intellect like a Border Collie, is not going to respond to a simple imperative sentence beyond its name and one or two-word command.

Suzie gave up digging just long enough to turn her head toward me, her red-brown eyes regarding me with what I construed as affection and indifference. The same I observed in You-Know-Who the last time we spoke. That’s what Spring will do to me.

I drained another bottle, slid it into its cardboard berth and withdrew its neighbor, popped its top and glugged down about a third of its mind-fogging elixir.

“Hey, Fluff, c’mon over here like a good girl. Leave those flowers alone,” I called again, this time with a bit more beer-muscled edge. Again, a turn and that look, the reflex reminder of Her eyes.

I’ve imagined those eyes many nights as I was lying in bed. I’d see them in the dark, on the ceiling, with mine closed, my head under the blankets or pillow, in the face of the girl who checked my license and sold me this beer, in my neighbor Mrs. Benedetto’s stare as I talked to Suzie like she was a human girl. Yeah, I saw Her eyes everywhere. Sometimes I liked thinking that she thought about my eyes, maybe seeing them in somebody’s face on the street or through a store window on a mannequin during a midday walk, if she still walked the route we’d walk when we were still “just friends.”

“Suzie, come. I mean it. Bad dog. I’m having enough trouble today without you digging up stuff. C’mon, Suzie, come,” I said. I emptied that bottle and noticed I only had one more left to drink. The contents of two bottles had disappeared without me noticing . Just as the past two hours had disappeared.

But the feelings of being the stupid good guy who followed the rules, too late to the fair (damsel), and living with regret, a Border Collie and only one more beer overcame me. Just as they had every year since I lowered my emotional guard and got a gut punch for my trouble.

“Suzie,” I yelled. “Get your fluffy ass out of those flowers now.” I was pissed, but not really at my dog. I planted those flowers and pretty much ignored them because it pained me to tend to them when I knew what they represented. But I couldn’t dig them up because…I knew what they represented.

I took that last bottle and tipped it up and drank most of it down in one long chain of swallows. Might as we’ll end the day and the beer going out big, because the feelings were still big.

I lowered the bottle with eyes my closed. I’d had enough of feeling sorry for myself. Yeah, these feelings were always there, most especially on this day. It was on the first day of Spring when I finally sowed my feelings for Her with hope they’d grow into something beautiful. For years I’d dreamed someday she’d look back and think, “Oh, wait…what if…?” But it’s really too late for that. I’ve lived too long without gathering what I’d planted with such hope. I realized a while ago I could live with that “without.”

I opened my eyes and found Suzie staring into them. She’d finally come over to me. In her soft mouth she clenched one of the Black-eyed Susans from the plot where she’d been digging for the past hour. I looked over and saw that it looked like a roti-tiller had  torn it up for a new plating. Suzie dropped the flower between my feet and pressed her head against my knee. She’d chewed off the center of the bloom and the black eye was replaced by brown. I reached out and rubbed between her ears.

“Okay, I get it. Thanks, Fluff-butt. You’re my girl, huh?” I said. “It’s over. We’re stuck with one another and that’s okay. What do you say we go down to the dog park tomorrow and see if we can dig up something besides flowers and foolish memories.”

I picked up the flower Suzie gave me and put it in that last near-empty bottle. Then we both went into our house. The sun had just slid over the Equator and the roofs to the west and tomorrow new life would begin.

A first-draft quick response to Annie Fuller’s weekly Writing Outside the Lines prompt. This week, it was the photo you see at the top of the story. As is my wont more often than not, I was inspired to write about another close encounter of the third kind in the galaxy of the heart. Is it a story yet? Probably not. But it’s a good jumping off point for something later. Let’s say I’ve panted the seeds.

Joy Like a Red-Flowered Dress

I found this faded old photograph
at the bottom of my desk drawer.
It captures you in a joyful moment,
as you turned and saw me
with my camera. I’m unsure
which of the two made you smile.
When I took this fumbling exposure,
I think you were pregnant,
which might explain your glow,
the red in your cheeks,
the beaming from your eyes.

I think that’s a gift women
take on to illuminate their way
across that threshold to becoming
a mother. It’s the only photo
I have of you radiating your
womanhood like that. I never
took one of the next child and you.
By then, the space between my heart
and mind had grown so vast, I so lost,
your incandescence would be wasted
signaling me through that darkness.

That was the apogee of my journey;
today I’ve swung back closer to
the sun. But time and circumstance
have extinguished anything like
that singular warm glow. Maybe
that’s why I kept this image
when I’ve lost so many others.
It echoes a time never again
will I see, when I was blind
instead of sightless, and you
wore joy like a red-flowered dress
that’ll always fit perfectly.

Took four random words — pregnant, threshold, echo, space — and built this old-school Storyteller/Poet Me first-draft house of sticks in about twenty minutes. For whatever reason, Jackson Browne’s “Fountain of Sorrow” came to mind as I started stacking. It’s better than a house of straw, but I believe a good huff and puff could topple it. So you’d better read it quick, because I feel an editorial sneeze — or hot glowing ember of Delete — coming on.

Sparking the Tinder of Unfulfilled Dreams

I once held almost religious
reverence for the enchantment of dawn.
How some metaphysical Firestarter
struck together his celestial
flint and steel out of sight
over the horizon. From that,
some great spark flew into
the dried ball of yesterday’s
unfulfilled dreams, setting them
aglow in smoky possibility,
shrouding the mystery of can I,
should I, why and why not.
I’d awaken to this magic
and breathe into the east,
to give flaming life to
the tinder of my today, this
communion of maybe with the
the solid kindling of certainty.
Now, dawn’s become the crawl
of horizon and me beneath Sun’s
unrelenting glare, wide-eyed,
unblinking and judgmental,
unlike serene Moon’s monthlong wink.
Staring at the birth of this morning’s
slow burn, I realized my dreams
will always be nothing more than
the fluff of Firestarter’s tinder
and dawn is another signal of
what’s left going up in smoke.