Poetry Corner – October 2014

Depression

When i am alone
He creeps into my bed
Slips under the sheets and touches me
In all those private, sensitive places
I let no one else in the world ever see
And he makes me weep
Before I drift off to sleep.
As the darkness tucks me in,
And my eyelids flutter against the tide
I reach out with both hands
To see if he’s alive.
The empty bed responds
with a moan and a sigh
that escapes my lips.
He is gone!
And I am alone.
He steals my dreams each night
When into my room he creeps
And steals my dreams in flight
He makes me weep
Before I drift off into sleep.
Before I drift off to sleep.

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Creepy guys at gas pumps, excite me?

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Driving back to Florida after the wedding in Virginia I had stopped for gasoline some place outside of Jacksonville. I sat in the car for a while trying to get out of that lethargic state one gets from driving too long between breaks. As I was getting out of the car this man drove up in a white van and began staring at me from between the pumps.

“Nice feet,” he says. I look up at him as I’m pulling on my sandals. “I like the way you painted your toes. Nice color.”

I had used OPI: I AM NOT REALLY A WAITRESS. My toenails were bright red. I wiggled them under his gaze. It was a normal response.

“So, you like driving barefoot?”

“It’s comfortable, ” I answered. “Especially on long drives.”

He asked me where I had been driving from. I told him, my daughter’s wedding.  He asked how many kids I had. I told him: three. He then asked if I was married.  I said: not for some time. He then volunteered his own life history, as though we were suddenly friends because of my marital status. I slid my credit card, punched in my zip code and began pumping gas while he told me he never found the right girl to marry. He had several long term relationships over the years, some liked him enough to marry but he didn’t like them and some he liked but they didn’t care enough for him to wed. Then he said: “you’re a fine looking woman, If you don’t mind my sayin’.”

No, I don’t mind, I thought. Wow, this diet is finally paying off. 120 pounds in two years. Although this dude is not really my type. He looks about fortyish and has a pleasant enough face, but doesn’t quite fit my criteria for dating.  He works as a sales rep for some company selling beverages. I think he was selling to the store that was part of the station when he spotted me whole getting into his van and drove over to get a better look. “Thanks,” I said.

“Maybe I’ll give you my number. You can call me. We can go out.”

I stared at him and hung up the pump. His thick black hair combed back over his head was glossy and streaked with gray at the temples.

“Well, I just ended a long term relationship.  I’m not ready to go out–” I had just told him I lived in Fort Myers, several hours south.

“Here.” He held out his hand through his open window. There was a piece of paper in his palm that he held secure with his thumb. It looked like his thumbnail was chewed down to a stub.

I hesitated and looked around to see If anyone was watching our bizarre interchange. Everyone seemed preoccupied with pumping gas or walking into the store. None were looking at two strangers In conversation.

“Just give me a call if you want to go out.”  He shook the paper at me. His blue eyes brightened as I stepped over the concrete island that separated our vehicles. There were no windows on the white van and no sign or lettering to indicate it was a company vehicle. I pictured him grabbing me and putting his hand over my mouth to muffle my scream while he shoved me into his van and knocked me out. Silence of the Lambs seemed to ooze from my skin. I stood a few feet away and reached for the paper. His hand closed around my fingers pressing my fingertips into his soft, moist, fleshy palm. It was warm, almost hot. I blushed. I didn’t pull away. He smiled and squeezed my fingers a little more and rubbed them between his before letting go. Creepy, I thought. I stood back and looked down at the torn piece of paper in my hand. It had a number scribbled on it. His hand writing was like a six year old, awkward and uneven.

“My, you’re a fine looking woman,” he said. I followed his eyes as they washed over my body, from my neck to my toes. I did look thinner in my long gray tunic and black skinny jeans.

“Thanks,” I said, wondering if it was the right thing to say. I didn’t want to encourage him. I really didn’t think he was my type. He wasn’t even very handsome. He kept staring at me as if waiting for something else. I stared back at the steel-blue gaze. “It’s been a long time. I mean I just lost a lot of weight in the last year or so.”

“You look fine,” he said.

“Thanks,” I said again. I walked back to my car knowing he was sitting, waiting, and staring until I got in and drove away. I checked myself in the mirror. My hair and make-up were fine but I looked tired. The van disappeared in my rear view mirror.  It hadn’t moved from the pumps and i noted that he had never gotten out to pump gas the whole time we’d been talking. I began to think about the creepy guy in the white, windowless van and the way his fleshy palm had felt, soft, warm and moist and the way he looked at me, and I felt a little guilty for eating a half of a cup cake at my daughter’s wedding.

What the hell was that all about?!!!

Heal the World? Am I Crazy?

I want to heal the world. What the hell is wrong with me. Here I am broke and broken and this young clerk at Macy’s looks at me, almost expectantly after ringing up my purchaee, a Kenneth Cole swim-suit on sale that I could never afford if she hadn’t given me an additional discount because I haven’t worked in three years, and probably won’t wear right away until I drop seven more pounds, and certainly don’t need because I have two others at home, but she tells me she’s tired too when she hears me yawn, and then tells me she’s working two jobs, and is recently divorced and making it all on her own raising her three children alone. All I did was comment on the beautiful bracelet she was wearing. It was black and studded with rhinestones that dangled on small delicate chains shaped like feathers of some mystical bird and caught the light. There was a matching one on her other wrist. She said a friend had given her them, not her husband, parent or sibling, a friend. So I jumped to a logical conclusion and thought she was gay. She assured me, after a moment, that she was not and looked away. She looked about thirty something, young, blond and pretty, no lines on her face that would have suggested she was that age so i told her she looked twenty-nine. She told me she was thirty three. She looked skinny and flat chested under her black smock, and her brown eyes were shadowed with worry and looked at me wanting and I wondered what for. What could I do? What could I say that could satisfy her yearning for answers that evaded me, after three broken relationships, a lonely,  broken old-maid, and more years than I’d care to tell her, having moved back in her mother’s guest room trying to sort out the ruins of my own life, but she needed me to. I confessed my own lowly situation revealing my vulnerability and lack of credentials as an advisor to a young woman working two jobs after a divorce and with three kids waiting for her at home, the oldest was thirteen the youngest was twelve, both boys, the middle child’s sex and age though in between was unknown, but her eyes still held me, a window had opened and I saw her raw soul. I knew she cried when she went home at night and was all alone, after she fed her children, read to the youngest and tucked him in, then went back to clean the kitchen, pick up the living room and slink off to the bath. Her tears were like lightening silent and fast, clinging to her cheeks and stinging moments before sleep. She wanted me to say something,  anything that might give her hope. I don’t know why she saw me as her savant, a reflection of her future, broke and alone and wanted to know if she would be alright. I asked her: what is it you always wanted to do with your life? She told me: a mother, a stay-at-home-mom. That’s when I told her I had children too, and like her I wanted to make it on my own, wanted to prove to the world and myself I could do it but I couldn’t and I needed help. I needed a friend to listen to my troubles, someone who shared the same history and similar dreams. I explained that sometime we all need help, that I moved in with my mom, and accepted her charity, kindness and counsel. I now, late in life, realized it did not mean I was weak, just in between strength and ambition and needed a rest. Her eyes didn’t waver. They held onto mine and she continued to stare at me still wanting. Get an education I told her, it’s the only way to secure your future but I  admitted that even with a JD, and MFA, I was still unemployed. Take a class at a nearby college, go to night school to meet other people her own age. People who could identify with her, other women who knew what she’s going through and commiserate. She kept looking at me waiting for more. I told her to love herself, that she’s beautiful–she stopped me–do you really think so? She asked. It surprised me. Yes, I said, absolutely.  She smiled for the first time. Not a big beaming grin but a little one, almost unnoticeable if I hadn’t been looking.  You already accomplished your dream, she was like me that way I supposed, then I said: Now you need to re-plan and move on. She looked at me puzzled. You’re already a mother, and a good one I can see, but you need to see yourself at forty, just ten years from now and your kids all leave. Her eyes widened. I was reaching something inside of her, touching that place she hid from everyone but for some reason, God only knows, she hid from everyone except me. Picture yourself ten years from now and plan accordingly. Take whatever help you can and do this for you. Your whole life has been dedicated to pleasing someone else, your children, your parents, your significant other or husband or whatever is applicable–husband she assures me–and you need to forgive yourself. None of what’s happened is all your fault but you blame yourself, I know, because we all do, it’s in our nature as women, but you need to do this, and love yourself to. Her eyes watered. You’re beautiful,  I reminded her, and meant it. I wanted to keep talking but something told me I’d said enough. She had to keep working,  and thinking about her future, the one I just gave her, and me. I left her standing there still looking at me or where I had been, and left her to her own decisions,  like a friend.

Poetry Corner – October 2014

Chrysanthemum

TO MY DAUGHTER ON HER WEDDING DAY
I found a Lady’s Slipper on a bed of moss in the forest once
near a gurgling mountain stream, among the clover and thistle,
prickly pear, mushrooms and chamomile,
in a clearing all by itself it lay
surrounded by burdocks and heather,
Its soft petals bled purple in the autumn sun
Dripping with the moist kiss of morning,
It bade me near her,
In awe I moved to see her better.
She shimmered and glistened and glowed in the lifting haze
catching the first light of the day.
When I stooped to study her face a little more
I thought—a tiny maiden is blushing there
hidden ‘neath a verdant canopy,
sitting on her bawdy bed, waiting patiently
alone on the forest floor,
no other flower near, nor tree, nor fern,
nor even a weed in the moor to keep her company,
Or hear her weep when she rises alone from her gentle sleep.
She lay quietly and bent, her golden head turned down
her face buried deep under an opulent breast,
her firey charm unmatched and rare
as though heaven-sent, her hair thoroughly alit
with all the colors of the sunrise.
I thought I’d take her from her bed that day
for a little girl, who loved flowers, sunshine, and rain—
And things I never knew existed, except in a child’s eyes.
As I reached out to lift the splendid Lady’s veil,
I felt a quiver start along the slippery stem—I stopped –
It moved and shivered in my hand
A breeze had stirred her delicate skin,
Perhaps.
I don’t know.
It seemed to shudder under my grasp
until I opened my hand and let her go.
I wanted to take her up by the stem and
carry her back to my tinky little friend,
but then—at the moment she balked—I thought,
I should not right then, but wait until the spring
When—that child, who so loved rare things
Would walk with me arm in arm
down some country lane, or an aisle
And I would lean and whisper in her ear
And tell her about the time that I was here,
and saw a Lady’s Slipper that lay on a mossy bed
in a forest near a mountain stream, on a crisp autumn morn,
and how the sunlight gleamed and set her beauty ablaze.
My precious gift would last throughout her days
A memory for her to keep within her breast
to believe its beauty might still be there
and share her secret with her special friend
each and every day,
Forever and ever and ever.

R + D Misc 066

Love and Other Splendid Things

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Someone asked me once: How do you know what love feels like?

I looked up at him and his eyes were drifting behind our waitress as she walked away, like two flies hovering over a compost pile. I said: You just do. It’s like an instinct. It kicks on when you need it.

Does it make you feel kinda warm and fuzzy inside whenever you are around her?

It might. It’s different with everyone and even feels different each time. It morphs like a virus. Trust me. You don’t want to catch it.

He looked at me over his coffee. His eyes narrowed and his forehead pinched together. He said: It sounds like a disease.

That’s a good description. I smiled. His hands were rubbing the cup between his large palms. He had nice hands.

Is there a cure? he asked. There was amusement in his sand-colored eyes. He had nice eyes. I didn’t dare look at them too long.

Yeah, it’s called marriage. I laughed. It was two short bursts of energy escaping my lips, two syllables you might see in print in the funny papers while reading Mutt and Jeff on a Sunday morning while sipping coffee and eating burnt toast, with two ankle biters sitting in high chairs, the boy in front of him and the girl sitting in her booster seat next to me, face puckered and red and wrinkly like she’s ready to cry, and dishes piled up high in the kitchen sink, and the smells of the dirty laundry emanating from the laundry basket beside my chair mixing with the kitchen odors in the air. My eyes watered. Yup, I said, it’s called marriage.

Michelle, he said, then hesitated until I looked at him. Somewhere in the middle of my dissertation about love and marriage I had gotten distracted by a little girl with food all over her face sitting in the next booth. I don’t know if I told you, reader but his eyes were the color of the desert. He had nice eyes. And his hands were nice too. He had something in his hand, a small felt covered box, the kind rings come in. He put it on the table in front of me and said: Michelle, I want you to cure me. It opened. Something inside the box caught the light and held it so I couldn’t see his eyes anymore. I didn’t hear any more of what he was saying. Only the ringing in my ears. Then something hit me. I think it was the floor.

When I opened my eyes again, Hank was holding me up in his hands. He was carrying me someplace and everyone in the restaurant was clapping, even the little red-haired girl I had been staring at earlier wondering if I would ever have a little red- haired girl like that someday. I’ve got red hair. Hank called me Fyrecurl. The ring I had seen in the box, the one with the big rhinestone the size of a quarter that caught the light and ate it, I think it was a rhinestone, it was on my third finger. He put it on the wrong finger, I thought. I was going to chastise him but then he took my breath away again and said: Looks like we’re going to have to cure each other. Hank smiled.

Reader, did I tell you he had a nice smile?

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