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.

Like a Lion

March Winds, by Graham Clilverd FRSA - 1949

March Winds, by Graham Clilverd FRSA – 1949

March’s winds bend back
the trees, only to fling
them away to swing back for more
bullying shoves, while whistles
and cracks fly like birds
from maple to spruce and back.
Aloft, freezing winds plait
cloud strata into ropes
of black and white, then
knot them into gray snarls
to toss across the blue
like cat toys. Below,
I sway like the trees,
my old joints cracking,
while I whistle and ponder if
this will be the March I’ll
finally untangle myself
from the snarling, the knotty
thoughts of you that roar
in chilling leonine echo
across my ever-blue memory.

Just because…

Scraping Toward Vernality

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The maples stretch for
aging daubs of Winter,
these gray clouds grimly
clinging to want-to-be
Spring sky. Red-bud nails
on their fingertips claw
to snatch what lies
just out of reach,
like an escape tunnel beneath
fickle March to April,
the hope of this dreamer
captured in endless February.
Today, robins delivered
prospects for escape
from this steely season
hidden in their songs
like files within King Cakes.
Sun sinks out there,
later each day, while
shadow maples stretch
across this field
pulling back Winter’s
flimsy blankets, clinging
to a want-to-be Spring…
Just Spring.

Seasons Weren’t the Only Things That Changed

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I recall the days snowless Spring returned to the old neighborhood. We’d bring out our bats and rubber balls and pace off baselines in my grandfather’s vacant lot. First base would be the red and amber back-up light on Julian’s new Buick, the one whose tail fin I crashed with my knee legging out a slow roller to third. It caved in. I was out. Such Springs disappeared once the sproing of ball hit by a wooden bat birthed the plonk of a well-hit drive bouncing high off the Giso’s once-unreachable wall cleared the shattered glass-sparkled field rather than just the bases. Our games became shortened not by rain, but by Miss Mary’s threats of calling the cops for the offense of hitting liners that shook her knickknacks off perfect shelves above plastic-covered furniture. Baseball Spring’s noises disappeared when we discovered the bounce and bump of three-on-three basketball. We shot from April to September at the bulb-less fixture hanging over the abandoned parking attendant’s shack. My dad eventually hung a real hoop, though. I think it was right after we learned Presidents could die, and die of something other than natural causes.

A sunshine Spring day memory free write. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not so old to have played baseball in knickers (and a freaking tie!) like I believe one of the kids up there is. However, we did occasionally roll up the cuffs of our jeans to Major League height….just because.

Like Robins’ Songs

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That herd of robins is back,
grazing on what passes
for open plains in the suburbs.
Today, they fill the big circle
of dormant grass
in the middle of the cul-de-sac.
The March sun catches
their orangey red just-so,
making their breasts look like
they’re afire.
Spring used to touch off the tinder
in my heart, spawning fire to a desire
I never fed with the kindling
of heroic feelings.
Those days are over,
only recalled when I read
the charcoal sketches you left
upon my heart’s stone walls
that whistle in spring wind
like robins’ songs.

I Was

 

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Like this mid-February snow
on the bristled fields,
I’ve been scoured
by winter winds from the peaks
of their memories’ topographies.
I am the enigma, the shadow
from the periphery of potential
Once-was, destined to become
the ultimate question of Who-was.

To all the ones I thought I loved,
and no doubt to the few who
could love me, I am the paradox,
the deep wellspring who could never
spill the feelings they sought
in comprehensible thoughts
or deeds, let alone
words.

But the singing winds will blow,
and the springing hope always
returns, until, for me,
one day it won’t.
Maybe that will be my time
to step from these shadowy places
to dawn as a memory that will bring
you smiles, the answer
to that final question.
I was.

Tracks of the Leaves

 

Falling maple leaf with shadow

Last Fall’s leaves, the ones I couldn’t
snag with my lazy too-short arms,
skitter and run across the grass,
like they’re being chased by Winter,
though Winter passed this path
weeks ago. They flip and whisper
like the pages of a diary to me,
helping recall when I was younger
and the days grew shorter.
Some loosed from their branches too late,
missed their connection, and spent
the frigid times racing into and
out of windward shelter.

Funny, for all their running, the leaves
leave no mark upon the land
save for the invisible ink tracks they
write within me. If I followed their
undetectable path, I’d churn up mud
and mess and ugliness that would
spoil Spring’s pastel palette to come.
That’s why I sit here and transcribe
their twists and tumbles, their stories
of lives spent dancing and running
on the wind, like the leaves I let fly
from my journal’s long reach,
like an old oak who’s ready to let go.

Poem #6 of Poem-a-Day NaPoWriMo 2015. No prompt today. Just watching the leaves rush past my Emily window.