A Touch of Memory

Why I can never let go?
Is it because your invisible grip
remains on my memory,
that guilelessly smooth
expanse where the world
has left ridges, whorls
and smudges to mark its passage
through the my library halls?
Despite the Hands Off signs
I’ve scattered, the mess
everyone left has rendered
any of my reflections
impossible to grasp.
Except where you’ve left
your glancing caress.
I keep that hidden
so no onecan mar where
your fingertips will linger
upon my face whenever I look
on this space I hold dear.
And where I hold you, dear,
never to let go.

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The Struggle Continues

I think of you too much and not enough,
these days and nights since you left me behind.
The “thinking” is something that feels so rough,
while the “not” just makes me feel so unkind.

But kindness is like beauty to a beholder,
and beholders can wear glasses of rose.
My flaw was choosing when to be bolder,
but too often instead of choosing I froze.

That’s how I lost what was a thing unique,
and now I know it’s more than that I’ve wasted.
But this is what comes from being so meek,
not daring to take Prufrock’s peach and taste it.

So today I just sit here and fritter
instead of sharing some time, just you and Joe.
If I’d spoken up would I still be bitter?
Perhaps, but I didn’t, so we’ll never know.

But I like to think this poem you’re reading,
and it’s collecting some transcendent due.
Someday, again we’ll share two souls beating,
since just one heart’s left whole instead of two.

This is such a struggle. The writing, the creating, the imagining, they’ve all gone away it seems. Too long under the pall of my losses. Even though one’s now somewhat mitigated. But I keep trying. If I can’t keep lit that old candle, maybe I can strike a spark and start a wildfire with the dry leavings of what once was so verdant and alive.

Wherefore and Why

He thought he’d search today
for that old photograph.
And he was not sure why.
They never talked anymore,
the bloom off that rose like
the youth off that old image.
But still he rummaged,
through notebooks and pens,
books and file folders,
memories and other memories,
real and imagined.
And he was not sure why.
Until then he found it,
dogeared and scuffed,
within a spiral bound
remembrance he’d created
when he wasn’t looking,
not even thinking of it.
And he was not sure why.
But there was the smile
that lit so many dark days
and darker nights, like
the sun continues to glow
in its recalled place
behind his closed eyes.
And then he knew why.
With one smile he knew why.

Run Aground

Allegheny morning
© Diana Matisz, 2019

I still see your reflection
whenever the river slows
in its infrequently placid way,
kicking out sparkles here and there
just to make sure I notice.
Then a tug will push a barge past,
always laden with the weight
of the world someone’s mined,
all the time arguing
with underlying currents,
unseen snags and shallows,
whining of rusted steel on steel
and the strain of tarred ropes
that bind. And the wake
of their passage slices your image
into slivers of memory, emanating waves
that buoy and ground me as I list
in this spot, unable to move on.

With thanks to my dear friend Diana Matisz, who’s images have inspired me for years and I hope still will for years to come.

The Halo By the Door

Your face doesn’t register
where your memory resides.
It got lost in my mind’s
last three moves.
Your halo hangs on a hook
by the door and rattles
with each recollection’s
coming and going.

It still glows when the light
hits it right, but the light
doesn’t hit much anymore.
That’s what happens
when you get old
and memories tarnish,
tear and disappear in the dust
of an old man’s mind.

Sometimes I think I hear
the rustle of your wings
in the dark, but we both know
you never left the ground.
You just left, leaving behind
this silly halo I made
that you never wore,
just posed with, holding it
above your head to humor me,
always with one eye on the door.

Sometimes I wish I could remember
the face I thought belonged
wreathed in this ring.
Then I realize I’m better off
with a faded figment
of my own device
than the memory of a fallen angel
who finally learned how to fly.

No Direction Home

Around the corner and down a way, just before the main road, two staples hold what’s left of a piece of paper to the power pole. I’d pass it in its fullness on my way to or from when snow still covered everything. It was hard to read then, weather having already faded it, the home printer’s ink running in tears down to the oiled wooden pole. But I knew it was a picture of someone’s white cat that had left the house and not returned. It could have run away, but I doubt it. It could have gone out and run afoul of a winter-hungered coyote, or maybe it got lost in the expanse of white upon which Home happened to be and a car or snowplow had sent it spinning like a snowflake to join the rest of the white on white landscape, maybe until Spring. And now all that’s left of someone’s plaintive posting for their loved one to come back are two staples and a tear of shredded hope. And I thought about the times I have been spun and hunted and lost. When I didn’t know which direction was Home, or if I even wanted to go there. When the dome of sky and the plate of earth are indiscernible from one another, and you look around you for help or escape and you know not which way is the N on the compass, let alone the road to redemption, you just have to find your way within. I once saw a litter of puppies tumbling down a hill toward the busy road upon which I sped by. There’s was nothing I could do for them, surrounded as I was by semis and fulls – the former, trucks and the latter, idiots. I filed that scene as a short loop that runs in my head and heart for thirty years. I have no idea if the little black bundles of bumptiousness hit road level and found a diverting chain link fence there (I pray so) or if a frightening inevitability ended their lives. I just know that they still live within the Home that is me, just as that cat might live in the lives of its family, or whoever saw its snowy invisibleness now indivisibly rendered in the home within them. Whether we know it or not, there will always be a Home for us, grim, gritty or glorious as it may be, in the memories of others, even strangers. Perhaps someday one of them will remember the shred of me when I passed through their day on the way Home. Theirs or mine, the direction doesn’t really matter. We’re Home.

On Day 27 of my Poem-a-Day quest, a “direction” poem. I saw the prompt and could only think of the line from Dylan…Bob, not Thomas. My taste in poets runs toward Minnesota, not Wales. Now, don’t nit-pick if this is a poem or not. It’s a first-draft expression of something within me. Let’s say it’s a prose poem, just for the sake of giving it an address in these last few days of April. A home on the way to May.

Caught Upon His Heart

He never actually tried to catch her,
but she clung to him like a cocklebur
at his every move and thought.
And when he tried to remove her,
she stung him sorely, even drawing
some of his blood. Because it turns out
she was caught upon his heart.

She never really tried to catch him,
but he’d bull through her space
as men do. Men are about the catch,
the possess, whether they catch
that truth or not. And when he tried
touching her, she’d sting him sorely,
even drawing blood, as if she caught
upon his heart.

Now he no longer enters her space,
too tired of fighting her inadvertent cling
and too chastened from her deliberate sting.
Sometimes she’ll pick through the old days
when he’d carry off a piece of her.
She pretty sure doesn’t miss him,
but might miss being caught upon his heart.

Day 16. A “catch and/or release” poem. Maybe I did both here. Perhaps this is the only way I can tell stories anymore.