The last time I saw your face,
I couldn’t see it all.
It wasn’t that you were in profile,
or lowered your chin in sadness,
though sadness stalks your eyes
too often, just waiting there
for a sag of your shoulder to pounce.
No, the last time I saw your face
we wore masks for Christmas,
perhaps to see New the Year, perhaps
to see one another again at all.
But I know the last time
I saw your face, your eyes told me
a smile was crossing its Tropic of Capricorn,
since I’d come back safe from my own
Tropic of Cancer. And I held
your face close, its Equator to mine,
our cheeks at anchor for a long moment,
because what if this really was to be
the last time I saw your face?
I know it’s never been a race,
but I only know what it’s not.
You’ve already passed me by twice;
don’t know how many more laps I’ve got.
I’ve given up trying to catch up
as we’ve always run round and round.
Our strides so evenly match up,
but yours are swift, while mine pound.
As along I plodded, I’ve pondered
all the laps we could have shared,
if out of my lane I wandered,
if only I’d sped up and dared.
I’m nearing the end of my run,
and I just can’t catch up to you.
Since we don’t know when we’ll be done,
here is what I thought we could do.
I’ll never get back my old zest,
catching up I won’t even try.
So I’ll wait here and rest
and jump back in as you go by.
And as I did, you turned and said,
“Thanks for waiting ‘til I caught you.”
Seems I was the one laps ahead,
now we'll finish as we ought to.
I think it’s seamlessly ironic, knowing how I get bogged down in my real life and the hundreds of lives banging around in my head, that I’m a day late in finishing this poem. The prompt was to write a “Catch up” poem. Indeed.
The tracks they all leave
criss-cross and follow,
stretch and tangle and some
just up and disappear
as if their signatories
ascended in some great leap
to that better place.
And so with us on our journey
between unknown and known,
confused and understood,
apathy and love, love and
some other kind of love.
Maybe the tracks form
at the corners of our eyes,
where tears can pool or
joy marks its trail
so as not to get lost again.
Or perhaps they step
one into the other’s
so that it looks like
we’re walking alone again.
But that would mean one
following the other and
wouldn’t it be better if,
for at least the part before
one set finally disappears,
our steps walk side by side?
So they told me I was booked,
but I never bought a ticket.
Destination? I haven’t looked,
I mean why bother? Frick it.
It’s one-way. At least that I know,
no round-trips this millennium.
Then I heard voices call, “Hey Joe!”
T’was a flock with angels tending ‘em.
Now I may not be that thrilled how
so much of my life’s played out,
but I did meet you, then “POW,”
agreed with what life’s about.
Some times we’ve traveled together,
but didn’t even know it.
Side by side, the trips were better,
if we checked our baggage to stow it.
I’d love to ride with you, you see,
if you’d have me as companion.
Such adventurers we would be,
wise Constance and rube D’Artagnan.
But I’m now kept in The Bastille,
my only escape with that doomed flock.
Death of body or soul quite real,
Hobson’s Choice and I’m on the clock.
I choose not that trip, don’t fret,
though staying’s thousand cuts kill, too.
I don’t wish to stay or go just yet,
unless it’s leaving here with you.
On my side of the mountain
there’s not much but regret,
only ashes and scorched trees
standing in their shadow-creature
accusatory way, ever pointing and
reminding me how I always took the wrong
forks in the road and almost became lost.
They said that on your side,
the forest is thick with shadows, too,
and no one moves forward to the mountain,
always worrying whether any dark thing
ahead is going to hurt them. But
I’ll bet they're just swinging tree limbs,
all wind and no threat. Like a shadow.
If I was to get off my sooty knees
and scrape them up the mountain,
would you shinny your sometimes shaky ones
up there, too? Because I don’t want
to choke on any ashes of regret anymore.
And I’ll guess you don’t want to hide
in the shadows from even more shadows.
If I take your hand and you grab mine
once we’ve reached the peak,
there’s little chance we’ll fall
from where the sun shines on nothing but
this moment and the only shadows we see
are our own, cast down the fall line, into
the shady past and future from which we rose.
I’m unsure what pain lies ahead,
and I choose not to stand around
worrying about it. That’s what
makes rollercoasters so frightening -
standing there in a long line
while time and screams go by.
But I can address old pain,
the kind where we can set our jaws,
maybe even make a small tight grin,
and say, “Yeah, it was bad.
But I survived.” See how it feels
weaker as time and the memory
of those painful cries go by?
I wish we didn’t have to suffer
when there's no one to ride with us
as scared, scary life screams, or worse,
just stands there, while we pass.
I see you bought a ticket, too.
Please, give me your hand.
I'm afraid this might hurt.
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.
Turns out those dim old reveries
were only the dreamy memories
of a man sustained
more by wish than reality.
Eventually, though, he realized
wishes are just hopeful dreams,
images of someday somethings
without substance, even though
they can feel so real they'll
spur a heart to galloping
almost as cloppity as a touch
from the one who spurred them.
In the end, though, it was you
who turned this someday something
into a reality. No one else could’ve
tended it for so long, never
letting it die, just waiting for
the right time to bring what it
always really was into full bloom.
Remember when you were afraid of shadows,
how they’d invade your space
in the sunlight’s glow?
Or was it while you were alone and worrying
about how this or that might
grab you from below?
A shadow's merely an echo of the shape
of something gotten in the way of
where light wanted to be.
A void that lies flat, folds or bends upon
light’s intended destination,
back then quite scarily.
But life moves on in its petty pace and
most of your fears have ebbed
as with it you’ve grown.
So most shadows have lost their powers
to frighten you, day or night,
except, perhaps your own.
Wonder how those didn’t scare you while
we cut You and Me pieces
from light in the park.
Y'know, I’d give up even my own shadow,
to help you brave those echoes
you still see in the dark.
Back in the old days when they
used to get together, neither of them
really invited the other inside for a visit.
Both were having such a good time
together, each shining their lights
upon the other, it didn’t matter.
They came close, but always kept
where they came from in
the shadowy background.
Each place full of rough relatives and noise,
disrespected girls and beaten boys
and neither wanted the other to know
they were denizens of such dark,
desperate and despairing places within
their hearts. But one day he followed her home,
past the beatdown and the mean,
the unspeakable and the rotten unseen,
and he watched from behind some of
the same kind of debris he knew so well.
She entered the room where she was she
even when no one was looking.
There, he saw her as the candle in that
broken window, the bright spot
amid all the things she didn’t want him
to know. But he’d seen it all before
in the same kind of spiritual slum
in which he awakened each day,
from which he walked, always focused
on her rainbow light he saw refracted
through that shattered window like a prism.