Casting for Carpe Diem

Another week has peaked and waned
and here I lie to wonder,
“What is it that you’ve gained
from living seven more days under
a plan with no plan contained,
in this life of blunder after blunder?”

Oh, I’ve seen seven suns rise
and watched them seven times fall.
But life no longer offers a prize
on the ride where you must be this tall.
Adulthood offered only losses and ties,
barely chance of winning at all.

So I guess this is a lesson learned
over time and rock hard ground,
that my life’s happiness is earned,
not serendipitously found.
That each time the Earth it turned
was my shot to make laughter’s chiming sound.

Maybe it was for a nebulous tomorrow I’d pine,
a today out of reach, a chance not yet blown.
A day where I could seize a ring so fine
on the ride not dependent on your joy alone.
So tonight, when I row in at sunset, I’ll be fine,
savoring the day I hooked all on my own.

With Stars in Our Eyes

I closed the book, put down the lighted magnifier and realized this might be the last one I’d ever read.

You think of these things when you’re going blind. And fast. Ischemic optic neuropathy is what the doctors called it. On top of that, I had something called low tension glaucoma, something the regular eye exams would never pick up.

They were something I’d had for decades as my eyesight deteriorated and the doctors just gave me stronger eyeglass prescriptions and the lame, “You’re getting older” jive.

“Another headache, Dave?” my wife Jen would ask.

“Yeah. Work’s just been a bitch and my sleeping has sucked.”

“When are you going to see a doctor about it?” Jen would always say.

“It’s okay, Jen. Just migraine or something. I’ll take an ibuprofen and it’ll be fine,” I’d reply. But then the ibu didn’t seem to hit it anymore and my peripheral vision seemed to be shrinking.

After I nearly rolled off the shoulder of the country road out near Oneonta, almost taking out a jogger, I decided I’d better see the doctor. But it was too late. The damage was done, my optic nerves were dying and the world was going dark faster than the onset of a January night. Only no dawn was riding to my visual rescue.

To her credit, even though I deserved it, Jen never pulled the “I told you so” card on me. She was calmer than I thought she would be, though in no way unsympathetic. She just was Jden, the woman I’d loved for over forty years.

She found me sitting in the dark, moping, feeling sorry for myself. I’d become your typical panicked patient. You begin groping even before everything goes dark, pondering how you’ll survive in the perpetual night coming in just a few months or even weeks.

“Hey, why so dark in here?” Jen said and flipped on the lights.

“I’m trying the future on for size. Now turn out the lights, Jen, and let me think, okay?”

“I wasn’t talking about the lights, Dave,” she said.

“Wouldn’t you be upset if you were me, Jen? Tell me you wouldn’t,” I said.

“I would be and I am, Dave. But sitting here silently raging in the dark isn’t going to change that. Now let’s talk about this some so we can figure out what we’re going to do when…you know.”

“Are you kidding?” I said, jumping up from my chair and moving toward her voice. I tripped over the ottoman and fell to the floor, banging my head and seeing flashes of light like I hadn’t seen in months.

“Dave, are you okay?” Jen said, hitting the light switch again and rushing to my side.

“See? See what an invalid I’m becoming? I’ll be nothing but a fucking burden on you and useless to myself and everyone else.”

She stood up and looked down at me. I could feel her eyes boring a hole through mine. I recognized that energy from all the other times I’d been a self-absorbed asshole with her.

I scrambled off the floor to the window, embarrassed for my whining outburst. I opened the curtains and looked into a darkness that might well be my view for the rest of my life.

“I can’t even see the stars anymore, Jen. Our stars, the one’s we’d stare at from the bed of my pickup when we were 17.”

“We can get through this, Dave. We’ve been through worse. What about my mastectomy? Fucking cancer and you never wavered in your devotion and care. You’d hold me every night, loving ME, not just some bra mannequin, as much in love as in the back of that pickup.”

“I’ll never see the kids faces anymore, never watch the grandkids grow up. And worst of all, I don’t know how I can take never seeing you again, Jen,” I said with a catch in my throat.

“I’m right here,’ she said, putting my hand to her face. “I’ve got your stars right here,’ Jen said, touching my fingers to her closed eyelids. “And I’ll keep them for you, let you hold them, bring you every bug or vista you’d ever want to see. That’s what we do, Dave. If you can’t see that, then you’re blind already.”

Slowly, her face so close to mine I could feel her eyelashes and a dampness on my cheek, everything became so clear, even with our eyes closed. So clear a blind man could see it. She’s beautiful, isn’t she?

 

The Congratulations Door

There was a space next to him
at the bar and I filled it,
because we have our backs
to protect us from affronts.
Right away, I heard him say,
“They’ll tell you,
‘Congratulations,’ when
they close that door behind you.
But they’ll forget you just as
you forgot the others when
you said fare-thee-well.”
I tried ignoring his sour mash,
but he sounded too familiar.
“And then your dying begins,”
I heard him say, as I turned
and saw a man in the mirror
I didn’t recognize, yet shaved
just yesterday. “You know
what’s coming, don’t you?” said
a voice echoing the other.
In the way we feel when
we no longer clutch the wheel,
I closed the door behind me.
and stood before yet another,
Above it appeared words
deeply seared Either/Or.
“Congratulations,” I said,
as toward the next life I sped
and closed this door inside me.

Circulatory System

Dear You,
I came across a photo of you
the other day so I thought I’d
drop you a line. It’s been such
a long time since we last talked.
It reminded me of the long ago time
when I’d always fight for you
instead of you fighting with me?
Just like here was a time when
you shared your warmth with me
instead of offloading angry heat.
That was a time when my sadness
made the world laugh, including you.
But it also was the time when
the ring of your laughter made me
all the sadder.
Did I ever tell you there was a time
when just the sound of your voice
made my day?
Now there’s come a time when
days pass between recalling what
you even sound like. Isn’t that sad?
But there’s a time every day
one or more of these silly thoughts
spin around my head like a cyclone,
dislodging emotions that carom
around my heart leaving behind
even more debris over which I trip
and reel, the World whirling
around me so fast I feel I might
auger myself to its core.
Anyway, hope you’re doing well.
You know me, nothing much changes
in my life. That Earth turns and
it’s another day just like yesterday.
It’s okay if you write back.
Probably better if you didn’t.
Love, I mean Best wishes,
Me

For Day 16 of NaPoWriMo, I combined Writers Digest’s prompt for a poem titled “(blank) System” and NaPoWriMo.net’s for a poem in the form of a letter. And, just because I didn’t use it yesterday, I through in a dash of Writers Digest’s prompt for a “one time” poem. Oh, and if I could find a way to do strikethrough letters on WordPress, that “Love” in the end would look crossed out, as I wanted it to be.

Seduction and the Siesta

napping-beneficial-or-harmful-3

The afternoon lies so quiet you can
hear the air breathe from the heating vents
to the ceiling, where it swirls and drops
like a lover’s whisper on your pillow.
You never enjoyed naps, such siestas
seeming to embezzle from you, skimming their
time-is-money cut from something your sure
you should be doing…if you could only
stay awake in your recliner.

You’d arise from those afternoon suspensions
of consciousness and verticality feeling
worse than when you reclined.
But that was before you turned 60.
Wasn’t it?

Now you crawl into these twisted trysts
with the post-meridian Delilah
who stole your once Samson-like strength
(and hair). You fight her Morphean
ministrations until she strokes your brow,
untying the knots in your expanding forehead.
She draws you into her somnolent embrace
with sultry promises, warm upon your face
like the dreamy promises of that expectant lover.
And you fall for her once again.

Enough Rope

2907270-pile-of-old-ship-rope-on-passenger-boat

All my life, I’ve braided
my feelings of confusion and
confusion of feelings into
ropes long enough to hang me.
Each line from which I
counterbalanced better judgment
inevitably tangled around me,
sometimes only tripping me, spilling
my dignity ass over teakettle,
like my shoelaces were tied together.
Others, it hurled me avalanche-like
into the crowd, where I hurt others.
Almost always, the rope tightened,
snaking around me, squeezing light
and life from me, giving me
little choice but to cut it,
dropping me into a thin heap
of compassion, tenderness, love,
pity and sorrow. Scarred by
shattered notions, suspicions,
beliefs and guesses, I limped away,
certain I’d soon begin gathering
new fibers of feelings, blindly
tying different knots of confusion,
seeking another out-of-reach limb
over which to toss my new rope.
I’ve always known how to fashion
such strong, dangerous lines.
I just never figured out why I do.

 

Time Out, Old Man

 

image

If you were a politician,
you’d expect this treatment
from a rival, the sniping,
carping, sneering you get
whenever you’d dare poke
your head above the hedges.
Or maybe from a woman who
felt you wronged her.
That’d be an act of recrimination
bordering on evisceration.
But no, it’s you versus you.
You, the scorned and scornful.
You who’d watch your
just-north-of-figurative and
smidgeon-south-of-literal gutting
with a skosh of glee and
a look like acid thrown at
your mirror. You, the beast
who lost your normally steady way
with a two-year-old today.