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.

So Strong It Hurts

It is a painful thing can we do
to one another, this coexistence,
this dissonant linking of one
with a different kind of other,
this trust-but-verify alliance
of two souls who would love to be
in the state of this painful thing
we can do to one another,
this love.

Maybe opposites do attract,
clanging together with a magnetic
melding of positive to negative,
hard to pull apart, though
easily turned to repulsion
with just one turned back.

It is a healing thing we do
to one another when we lie
side by side, my positive
by yours, negatives turned
upside-down, out of sight
under the covers.

All that’s required to maintain
this alignment of sacred coexistence
is a harmonious linking, a common
face-to-face faith of soul-to-soul,
where heart-to-heart beat soft
against one another, holding, healing,
loving so strong it hurts.

Dead Wrong Dead Reckoning

From that first moment he saw her,
he was sure.
Or so his story goes.
He envisioned her as Hesperia,
nymph of incendiary sunset, while
the deck beneath him soared
and dipped upon the swells
and troughs of uncharted oceans.
He never admitted this to her
until years later, another
of his rosary of miscalculations.
But, to the fearful man, merely
tossing adrift on her sensuous sea
brought such exquisite terror.

After the truth escaped him,
and she warned him off
her shameful shallows,
he dove headfirst anyway and
dashed himself upon the rocks.
The death of his hapless hopes
in her storm-tossed seas
didn’t kill the dreamer, though.
Only as a castaway did he discover
she actually was the red sky at morning
and he just another wrong-way
mariner lost to the vast
emptiness, steering his course
without compass, so dead wrong
by his own dead reckoning.

Free written poem based on the following quote from Annie Fuller by Jay Asher for her Writing Outside the Lines Challenge:

“… know me …
don’t just see me with your eyes …”

Perhaps this lost soul should have looked beyond her sun-bright gifts and into her shadows to ensure his bearings before he was lost.

Whatever the Heart Has Left To Take

The gentle man always was
a tick slow on the uptake,
blind to the foibles
and shortcomings of the angels,
fallen and otherwise, who
he believed encouraged him,
with a virtual handkerchief drop,
to voice his feelings
to (about) them.
But that exposed the soft anatomy
of his misplaced humanity
to their talon-sharp vanity.

So to unspoken words he turned.
Not the gesture, the expression
nor the tender touch the angels
always returned unopened.
He spoke instead to
the tissue-thin mirror
of a notebook’s page,
which sometimes reflected
his words to a keyboard
which echoed them
to you and you…and You.

You may read them
as love letters if you wish,
even though they’re unaddressed.
Read them today or whenever
you wish to feel what
he never got to…
except from the page.
The page always takes
to its heart whatever his heart
has left to take there.

Written on the 7th, but felt like sleeping with it. My poem-a-day run continues, as well as my weekly piece for Annie Fuller’s Writing Outside the Lines Challenge. This week’s prompt is that illustration up there.

With Dreams Inside My Eyes

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I have a bed, my very own.
It’s just my size.
And sometimes I like to sleep alone
with dreams inside my eyes.” ~ Mary Oliver

The doctor says I could go blind,
and for a moment my mind races
in frantic paces where sight
no longer graces my life like
random tones do a composer’s.
But then I realize I’m already seeing
such things in this darkened room.

There’s robin’s vermillion breast
coming to rest from azure above
to green below. And here’s your face,
unburdened by the toll of years,
the paths of tears, inviting yet
another riff on things only I
can see in you. The doctor says
we can arrest the coming darkness,
but what’s already lost
is gone forever.

I thank her and walk outside,
wearing what’s probably an odd grin.
She doesn’t know it’s at night,
with my eyes closed, I see
my life’s places and faces
so clearly. You may
tear away pieces of my sight,
but you’ll never steal my vision.

This piece was inspired by the final line of the first verse Mary Oliver’s Every Dog’s Story suggested my friend Annie Fuller.