Venus, Galileo & The Center of the Universe

Weren’t you lucky to make
that great discovery,
tipping the axis of not only
your world, but every satellite
held in your gravitational thrall?
But that’s Lady Luck, be she
good, bad or just dumb.
She was impervious to your
celestial attraction, but you
were not to hers. I made such
a discovery, but not until
I passed through your orbit,
and that too close,
for too long.

Salving my burns on the way out,
I was lucky enough to look back
to find you weren’t the center
of my universe. You weren’t
even the center of yours.
But I can live with these scars,
I’ve found other stars around whom
I’ll glide but never alight.
Look all around, not only
down and within, and maybe
someday our paths will
align once again. No longer
cracked mirrors, but diamonds
shining our rainbow illuminations
for whatever short spins
we’ve got left.

Day 7 of Poem-a-Day NaPoWriMo, using a combined prompt for poems of discovery and fortuitousness.

No Reason, Just to Rhyme

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Ask him what he knows
of the tos and the fros,
the gives and the takes,
the misses and the makes,
and he’ll pause then tell you,
“That’s a good question.”

Ask him when he knew
the sum of two and two,
if he was yang or yin,
what was his original sin,
and he’ll smile and say,
“I’m still waitin’.”

If someone asked you one day,
could you ever think of him some way,
in earnest or just in passing
as something more than the last thing
with whom you’d want to be alone,
to talk about now, not then.

But he’s sure down to the bone,
the first thing he’d say on the phone,
before any give, take, to, or fro:
“My life’s made of misses, so
you know this smile’s vestigial
and all my sins unoriginal.

Silly little free-written musing with lopsided rhymes.

The Unblinking Moon at Dawn

Young woman looking at herself in the mirror
It was 5:45 AM, or so his old Honda’s notoriously inaccurate clock glowed, poking Ben to a more lucid wakefulness and the question of where the night had gone.

Even with the windows fogged from the warm breaths inside and the chill pre-dawn air outside, Ben could still make out Paula’s features by the light of the full moon hanging over the western horizon as they parked there at the overlook. Ben noticed how her face took on its own aura when she turned toward him in her sleep and the still-white moonlight caught something he hadn’t noticed before on her skin——an almost imperceptible dusting of fuzz.

For reasons even he didn’t understand, he found this discovery, and its prismatic phenomenon, both exciting and oddly disturbing, and he squirmed in his seat to more intimately examine this girl with whom he had been deeply, and apparently blindly intimate with since Friday night.

The sound of the squeaking leather driver’s seat stirred Paula from her slumber. As she turned toward Ben, she opened her eyes to find him staring closely at her face.

“Wha…? What are you doing?” she said as her eyes opened wide and heart raced as her first waking sight was Ben’s face not ten inches away, tilted to the right and staring with what felt like rapacious intent.

They both snapped into upright positions in their seats. Paula’s fear-startled eyes canting to a more severe expression.

“You scared the hell out of me. What’s your problem?” she said.

Ben, his own face grown red as if she’d caught him with her right hand, rather than red-handed, said, “Oh, um, I was…I mean, I just discovered…You have…I mean, in the moonlight, your face, your skin…um, stunning. I was transfixed by how beautiful you are.”

“Wow, thank you. Such fright and bullshit to wake to,” Paula said. The previously cream-in-a-saucer angelic tranquility of her face at rest had turned into a half-shattered mirror. One side serene, while its no-longer twin side clenched around a disbelieving eye.

“No, I’m serious. You’re just stunning. I couldn’t take my eyes off you.” Ben half-truthed.

“Ben, there’s no need to polish my ego and its connected parts. What were you staring at? What do you find so disturbing about my face that you wake me with this…this…inspection?” Paula said.

Ben turned and traced his finger around the leather-wrapped steering wheel, noting for the first time how its surface went from slick where his hands tended to grip it to soft in the spots he didn’t.

“Okay, but promise you won’t get mad. It only adds to my fascination with you.”

“What?” Paula said in a tone her English teacher mother would have called imperative more than interrogative.

“Your cheeks, your skin so soft and perfect, but…”

“But what?” Paula said, her hand flashing to cover her right cheek.

“Um, there’s a little bit of fuzz on them,” Ben replied.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Fuzz, super tiny hairs. I noticed it when the moonlight shined on your face. That’s all,” Ben said as he looked up at Paula’s face, though focused upon the area below her eyes.

“Are you telling me I have a hairy face?” Paula said, nearly shouting.

“No. No. I just noticed it because of the moonlight  and because I couldn’t take my eyes off you. You’re so….”

“Hairy? Like a guy hairy? Like I need a shave hairy?” Paula’s hand left her cheek and found an abrupt landing spot on Ben’s left cheek.

“No. Hell no. It’s just that I’m so fascinated by everything about you. Can’t get enough of you. You’re the most beautiful…”

“And hairy.”

“…girl I’ve ever met,” Ben said.

Through the car’s back window, sunrise cast its first rays on the couple, while the moon still hung in the western sky. The combined glows filled the car with a rainbow aura in which dust mites spun and tiny prisms of spit flew between Paula and Ben when she said, “Take me home now, Ben. I’m tired and want to go home. Now.”

“There. You see? I knew I should have lied and just said you’re so beautiful I couldn’t taker my eyes off you. Which is so true it almost hurts,” Ben said, still rubbing his cheek where Paula had left a rosy print of three fingers and her palm, almost magenta in the combined glow of the newly risen sun and tenacious evening moon.

“Home, please,” Paula said, only now with a catch in her throat. She turned her face away from Ben toward the window.

“Okay. I’m sorry if I offended you. Ben said. “It’s just that…” He stopped and gave a whisper of a gasp. In the morning glow, he saw the tiny blond hairs on Paula’s neck, running from the hairline of her stylishly cropped ‘do down into and beneath the collar of her blouse.

He saw her shoulders rise and fall rise and fall, rise and fall once he brought his focus back from that singular point to the whole girl.

“I’m sorry, Paula. Offending you is the last ting I wanted to do,” he said.

“Ben, please, before I get out and start walking,” she said and gave a slight snuffle.

Ben turned the key in the ignition and slowly pulled away from the spot where lovers gathered to share intimacy, lust and lies. Even lies of omission like the one Paula had wrapped in ego-stroking compliments the whole time she was with Ben that weekend.

She thought of telling him how, not once, had she appeared to notice, let alone mention, the extra lift in his left shoe, his tiny fingers, the way he snorted when he laughed, how his eyeglasses were so strong his eyes looked owl-like, almost twice their size to any observer, how his clothes were straight out of Miami Vice or how his manly bravado was cover for his true feelings of inferiority to other men.

No, she wouldn’t say anything until she quickly opened the car door and looked down on him like the moon at morning, when the lies she silently told in the night were stripped away and truth hurt like staring into the morning sun. She would only say “Good-bye” and “Thank you.” The she’d walk into her house, ascend to her bedroom slam the door behind her and sit to gaze at her newest imperfections in her make-up mirror for the better part of an hour.

It added one more to the list she chronicled each day that began with her too-close set eyes, how they were a muddy brown color she hid under blue contact lenses, how one side of her face was fatter than the other (something her mother noted when Paula was twelve), how weak her chin was, how one ear sat higher than the other, how large that freckle was above her lip, how her teeth still didn’t seem straight enough, how blatantly that tiny scar at the top of her left cheek stood out  framed by all that hair she could now clearly see under the make-up mirror’s circle of lights. Lights that stared flat, unblinking and stark upon her, like the Ben did and so, too, the face of the accusing moon at dawn.

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First draft of a story based on this photo prompt from Annie Fuller I used for my poem A Handshake of Penumbral Equilibrium.  My thanks to Annie for the little shove back into my chair.

Enough Rope

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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.

 

Abandoned

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At dinner, as Allie chattered about her kindergarten class, Ben would mumble, “Um-hmm,” or “Really?” between glances at his phone or the second hour of the same local TV news as the first.

“C’mon, Ben. Let’s take a walk,” Allie said.

“Aww, Al,“ he said, but checked his phone and saw he had a free hour. “Okay, let’s go.”

Tonight, Allie didn’t lead them past the park. Instead, they silently ambled through their old neighborhood.

Allie stopped and stared at their first rental. Ben kept walking.

“It’s still empty,” Allie said.

“What?” Ben said, looking up and not finding Allie at his side.

“This place. Since we left, it always was for sale and still looks vacant, practically abandoned.”

“Hmmph, guess so. C’mpn, let’s get back before dark.”

All the way, Allie conducted a dinner-style conversation with Ben, only in her mind.

You walked past our house like you do the homeless guys in the park, just part of the scenery, colorless, ignorable.

What’d happen if you looked into its face, its vacant window eyes veiled with webs and secrets. Afraid it’d feel haunted looking back at you?

If you stopped to consider this shell full of lonely, would you see its lively times of youth, of family, stolen by time and disinterest? Nah. That’d require recalling yesterday when you barely can grasp today.

Yeah, move along, Ben. After all, just another part of the scenery.

Breakfast was silent next morning. As the news repeated, Ben barely noticed.

Rum Punch…Extra Ice

Jamaican-rum-punch-cocktail

It was a short, wicked blow
that put him down.
What started at the shoulder,
connected where the jaw
affixes to the skull.
T’was a thing of geometric,
kinesthetic and pathological
beauty, bisecting the great arc
of it’s target’s roundhouse paw,
stopping his forward motion
with it’s direct line of force
to its target of bone,
tendon and nerve endings —
the temporomandibular joint —
the victor knew would drop this bum
like a sack of haggis composed of
offal, Bud Ice, testosterone and hubris.
While the crowd’s hooting
dwindled, she shook her hand
and ordered a rum punch…
extra ice.

Ever a champion of women’s rights to beat the boys at their own games (I coached girls’ basketball for 30 years), this piece flashed out at me from that very first line. I followed it, building upon that short right hand to a summer quaff for its knockout ending, which might please only me. 

All for a Flicker

I must admit to the numbness,
the loss of feeling, because
I’ve gone too long since
feeling warmth against my cold self.
Whatever coziness within
comes from a fleeting flame,
a lick of yellow without a spark,
providing little light with which
to inspect the darkness within.
The occasional obsession,
the headlong chase for no other reason
than to fan the ephemeral flicker,
burned me since I followed two miles
a block behind that girl in grade school,
all the way to her home.
Burned but not really illuminated,
I acquired this soot-seared heart.
But outside?
Scarred and bruised.
Chill and unfeeling.
I cannot accept what I
cannot give; cannot give
what I no longer can feel,
and have lost the key
to remembering.