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.

Nothing Left to Feel

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Today I rummaged through
my gray and wrinkled journals,
in the attic behind my eyes,
to see if a new thought
of old you I might discover.
But all I found were pages
of once-heartfelt words expressing
something I never understood
because I never understood
anything I could not see, and
I couldn’t recognize my feelings.
Empirically, I observed you
as a conundrum, deriving
a contrary pleasure from the
feelings you cultivated within,
as well as any you consumed
from others. But you never
harvested any of mine.

Oh, how I wish I could find you
bouquets and bounty watered
by my tears of joy and sorrow.
So today I ransacked my dusty
recollections, because
I feel like Spring is near and
I feel that annual need to see you
and I feel something I can never
explain nor understand.
I found no emotion to fill the void
of not feeling you by my side.
Just images I’d rubbed so smooth
there was nothing left
to feel one way or another.
But I could see your smile,
still hear your laugh, watch
as tears fell and I recognized them
as old memories of your pleasure,
but none of mine.

Based upon a line from the second verse of Maya Angelou’s poem “Touched By An Angel,” as offered in a prompt from my friend Annie Fuller. I had the honor of meeting Dr. Angelou in one of my first weeks as a staff writer for Skidmore College. She exuded an inspirational energy undeniable, just as this one line stirred up this piece from somewhere within.

Dawn, Feb. 11, 2017

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You stir, cough, roll over and peek one-eyed at the clock signaling in garish mini-sunrise that it’s 6:30 AM. Kicking off the covers, you swing to face the wall while your feet search for slippers hidden in the coolness of your bed’s shadow. Scuffs beneath your feet, you shuffle to the window and pull back the curtain just a crack to see the consequences executed by the overnight snow. Eyes blink their reconciliation with the alarming alchemy cosmically metamorphosing the black-smudge base metal of yesterday into the platinum of a new day. Wedding cake duplexes and cupcake SUVs suspended from the clouds by steamy exhalations surround the cul de sac as gray dawn doesn’t so much rise as just happen. Crows calling in cacophonous amity, scratch away the comforting blanket of bedroom quiet. Four inches? Six inches? Does it matter? You still ache from pushing aside Thursday’s storm, so what’s to come when you eventually step into the subarctic day is just another pile of potential, frozen and tossed upon your front step like a million Sunday papers. You crack your back, grab some socks and head downstairs. Weekend’s come and it still feels like Thursday.

Welcome to my shivering, shoveling, sleep-deprived world. And I count myself lucky to be here in it.

Metaphor in L

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They told me love is blind,
an assertion I think you can call
a canard, which is French for “duck.”
I’ve heard it said love will find a way,
which is quite the accomplishment,
seeing as how they claim love
is visually impaired.
They tell me love is in the air,
which, if we follow this shredded metaphor,
is possible only if we accept
that sightless duck syllogism.
I remember hearing love conquers all,
which is a pretty bold statement,
even for a geo-positionally blessed,
sightless waterfowl.
That guy sang how love is all you need,
and if all those sayings are true,
he’s probably right.

I never messed with love,
was bent low by my own lonely woe,
couldn’t listen to all the experts,
who toss around their aphorisms,
adages, epigrams and bullshit
like someone else’s money.
But someone has loved me,
which takes serious squinting,
if not looking the other way.
They found this ugly duckling
and conquered his cynical ways,
opening a window, then a door,
in his seamless dark heart.
Now love’s light shines both ways,
even if I don’t stand up straight,
which I find easier with every touch.
Seems love was all I needed.

Free write ramble because my inspiration spigot is stuck and needed a good wrench and twist. And what’s more poetic than a study of love? Even if it is looked at through my scratched-up metaphoric microscope.

Lost to the Fog Dichotomous and Oxymoronic

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The fog of love can blind
and change a man as much
as that of war.
While men can fall, unknown,
in war’s smoke of cannon and confusion,
it is in love’s bewilderment
that many men fall and are lost,
some becoming unknown even to themselves.

They may live on, these casualties
of the heart, but the child
who entered the fray most surely is lost
once battle is joined.
They can become enshrouded
in the atmosphere of swirling emotions
and blinding opacity to what’s real
and what’s heart-charging fantasy.

To come out the other side
of love’s haze into the bright light
of recognition that what was
once was oneself now’s become
half of some dual-bodied beast,
a cryptic Minotaur of pleasure
and pain, neither himself nor his other.
Perhaps that’s why the Greeks
deigned Love to be the offspring
of Beauty and War, as
dichotomous and oxymoronic
as any invention of man or god.

Love, assuredly the first and the last,
leaves its casualties staggering,
walking, limping or at gentle rest,
lost in its flummoxing fog,
its smoke made with the fumes of sighs,
from which no man or woman emerges
unscathed, unmoved, unchanged.
Nor ever wished to.

I’m in no way comparing the horror that is war with love.  I am comparing the type of confusion experienced in the smoke of battle and how it changes people with that confusion and change experienced by those who fall in love, whether for good or ill. My thanks to The Bard for semi-agreeing with me in his fume of sighs quote.

Alone…All…Alone

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In a way, we are always alone.
Born alone, live alone.
Sit in a desk, a car, a predicament…
alone. Wed alone, lie in bed alone,
end up dead alone.
There may be others surrounding us,
many or just The One, but they’re
there
and we are
here.

A forest is nothing more than
a community of single trees,
each sustaining itself,
pushing out its own green,
dropping its own gold,
drawing rings around its heart
to keep count its solitary days.

But they each share this soil,
sip from the same water,
lean away as one from the same breeze,
hum the same rattling anthem
until falling, each with only themselves
to experience the drop and decay
as only it can.

In that respect we share so much
with one another, this solitude
within the thrashing, crashing days
and nights spent touching and being touched,
sleeping with only our own consciousness
even as we lie wrapped in another’s arms.

In our everyday looking from inside
at all those outside who are looking at us,
we can feel some peace knowing,
in our insular, armored,
outward seeking, inward keeping,
reflective, selective, selfish, selfless,
and unique aloneness,
we are not alone.

The Greatest Gifts

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The visitors arrive like Magi, some bringing gifts that likely have as little practical use to the recipient than something he or she might wear to their own funeral. The living room buzzes with conversations, small talk about universal themes: family, health, weather, the ghosts of Christmases past. You busy yourself in the kitchen, preparing the too-big meal for the too-anxious crowd that sits on your mismatched batch of chairs, wondering at the boxes beneath the tree. After dinner, their hunger sated but not their appetites, each family member, in turn, receives his or her share of the under-tree giftscape, leaving behind the debris of the season’s here-and-gone tornado of emotions and memories. You scan the scene, moving from one rosy-cheeked child of God to the next, each resting within their nest of torn wrapping paper, a display of joy and excess that’s often confused you, dipped you in anxiety and guilt, burned your fingers and laid waste to purse and parlor. That’s when you realize the gifts given and received tonight weren’t wrapped in paper and bows, maybe weren’t so practical but always will be the most essential. The greatest gifts have always been the giving and the givers.

With Christmas only a week away, these thoughts dawned upon me in another pre-sunup wake up call.