I could tell you stories about the future if I only knew what the future times hold. But my time’s running down, I may not have much future left. So no such stories'll be told. But I can tell you about some of my past, at least what I felt of it way back when. My recall might drift from real to dreamed, so fantasy might be the genre I'll use of then. These remembered stories are built of words strung on these lines like sheets on a rope. But if you really listen, and look between them, you’ll understand my past was lined with hope. These days I remember a face but can't the name, I'll even see it when I detect a certain scent. I feel that warm touch, hear a certain voice, but not know if it's true or what they meant. Right now I’m cradling a picture in front of me in black and white of someone I never knew. Yet the feelings I’m feeling when I look in her eyes are almost the same as those I got from you. So I’ll cherish the image of this beautiful girl even if her name I didn’t know until today. And if tomorrow I might become part of your past, I’ll cherish this present more than I can say.
I can tell this war isn’t over yet, despite swords sheathed and rifles in a stack. I still feel the hot blood pound in my head which they’d gladly sever with a back-turned hack. They've called a truce, a temporary thing, a pause in hostilities until then. What’s then? Do we wait for a bell to ring? No, I’m sure it’ll be them tells us when. The other side’s used to having their way, gives them perverse joy to keep us at war. They’ll keep up an act of good will, then say, enough of this “make nice.” Peace is a bore. Yeah, that’s how it is with this type of foe, a bully, a narcissist or a thug. They sometimes hate themselves, but then, you know, feel better after squishing you like a bug. Hey, for now, maybe they’ll keep that concealed, ‘cause they use charm and lies as weapons, too. When it’s over you can walk off that field. But, just in case, I’ll watch your back when you do. A hush will come on that front of your soul, your wounds will fade like the ink on this rhyme. Like nature reclaims the battle's shell hole, love will bring your scarred heart peace. Love and time.
I’m tapping on your window again, to see if I can come in. It’s a silent knock, unless you’re listening, for me above the din. My rap travels from here to there and there and there to you. And if you hear it, you can decide just what you want to do. I have this habit of telling the truth, it’s hard for me to lie. If you’re reading, you know it’s true, ‘cause you’re looking right in this I. If you need more time, I can wait, I’ll not put up a fight. I’ve patience, enough to burn, doesn’t have to be next year or tonight. You’ve nothing to fear, I’ll always be here, faithful as old dogs, if you seen them. That’s my message, written in these lines and maybe a little in between ‘em.
Perhaps it would make you laugh, or shake your head and wonder why, but no one would be able to see these words without the light you shine on them. Not even I. Even in our darkest times, I’ve found illumination in your presence, your soul-light shine from over my shoulder. I tried writing in the dark, smearing what felt like letters upon the night air. But they’d be gone by morning, like dreams forgotten when I’d awaken and find nothing but emptiness all about me. So this is all about you, the dawn and noon and sunset glow, the land and water and sky, the he and she and they and them, that you are to this otherwise blind I.
Remember those days when we dreamt solitude in the midst of our daily chaos would be such a gift? Now we know it was all just a dream. In our own ways, we were always alone. And always crushed by the crowd. You, fighting your way past that throng of voices never giving you solitude, and I, lone as that looping hawk, writing everyone’s life and death stories on the clouds, ever searching for the shadow of my desire to trigger another dive at that dreamy silhouette. As I got closer, though, I always found it was mine… alone...all along.
Once upon a time, I will sit on the end of the dock with you. Our toes will dip into the lake and now and then kick up diamond mirrors of sky and clouds, dock and shore, you and me. This very well may be a fairy tale, for many reasons, not the least of which is we have no lake and the lake has no we. But that doesn’t cool the warmth of your shoulder against mine, or warm the cool water splashed on our legs and faces or dim the smiles that we’ll share, once upon a time.
When I was little and we kidded ourselves about how safe the world was, I’d sneak out in the early morning from the Franken-camp my dad built onto Grandma’s little trailer, through the dew-sopped grass, past the communal bathrooms and from there to the beach on Snyder’s Lake. That’s where I’d introduce my now sand-crusted toes to the night-chilled water and the minnows who also felt safe there in the shallows. That early, the lake looked like it had been spilled onto a 100-acre platter overnight, even though I knew it dropped twenty feet fast if I wandered another twenty steps forward. But I was happy standing there with the awakening waves washing grains of sand off my sore toes. Through the mist, I could hear the squeak of the sailboat kissing the Miller’s dock, trying to make their motorboat jealous. And the water was so clear, I could see the sunnies and bass having the minnows over for breakfast just out in front of me. But mostly I heard the waves whispering everything was going to be all right today for a barefoot ten-year-old who stepped on the hidden remains of a hot sparkler last night in the darkness. I’d be fine just as long as I stood at least ankle-deep, refrained from that twenty-first step without my snorkel and mask and didn’t eat until they made me. That’s how I could stay in the water without a cramp Mom threatened I get if I didn’t wait a half-hour or so after my meal. No, I didn’t believe her either. I didn’t have a towel to sit on and I didn’t have anyone like you to sit with all day or when the sun disappeared over the other side, when the water got quiet and the lightning bugs made the lit-up houses across lake look all wobbly. Shame we gave it up in a few years, when the world and so many people decided to show how scary they really were. But most of them never had a lake to sit in front of that could wash away sand, worries, and years if you took no more than twenty steps forward and nineteen back. This was supposed to be a nice little poem about my childhood summers on Snyder's Lake over in Rensselaer County, NY. I didn't foresee it making so much of a cannonball dive of memory on me. So I just kept writing and we'll call this a prose poem or something. I'll do a real lakeside poem for you later. Until then, thank you for joining me and don't take twenty-one steps without your snorkel and mask. It's quiet down there on the bottom, but a little cold.
At 5:30 the past three mornings, dawn's snuck into my bedroom uninvited. It peeked around the edges of the drapes, mute beneath the hum of the fan blades. Across the floor it padded like a big old white dog, leapt up on my bed, flumped its head upon my pillow, and stared, its breath hot and tickling my eyelids open. But it wasn’t Sunday’s light and heat reveille kept me from slumber. No, my mind now sprung from its own rack and began pelting me with questions like a bedside five-year-old who asked the why and why not of certain things. Once you try telling a mind to go back to sleep, your snooze is over. I couldn't answer that pest, his dog nor the busybody Sun, because these were our same old whys and why nots I've tossed to by moon glow until past midnight for years now.
I'm not one given to dropping the ball, but keeping three in the air is tiring. Maybe I’ve lost it, youth, talent and all, ‘cause multitasking’s now hard on my wiring. While I’m centered on one, two can get free. If I split vision on a pair, it’s one. But when I try keeping them all, 1, 2, 3, my once-easy performance comes undone. So what’s an old juggler supposed to dare when his act’s become too much to go on? Best if I toss them all up in the air, and when they come down, be dead and gone. What if I dropped while they’re still above? What if I’m the first of us to fall? Would you be the one who’d show me your love like I’d pick you up? But you’re not a ball. You’re not some prop I would catch and then toss. This is no act, not some story I told. If I fumbled again, I couldn't bear the loss! See, you’re the one I wish only to hold. This piece originally ended on a really down note. Like death wish down. And that's not where I am today. Everyday life can be a struggle, and this lonely writing life can make it worse. That's when the inspiration angel on my shoulder reminds me it's gonna be okay if we just keep listening and talking to one another. Thanks, angel.
There were so many things I didn’t know, back when I didn’t know I’d need to know them. Always wondering in the wrong direction when the answer was right in front of me. Often, I’d uncover some oblique knowledge while the ground tipped beneath my feet in your presence. That’s why my ability even to ask the right questions, let alone understand the answers, was based on the just-so tilt of that pretty head. Your sideways nod would send me loping away in embarrassment, a mope who’d never understand us, or even myself, until it was - almost - too late.