August 6, 2012
That’s what you called my thighs as we tangled in each other, and as I lie here with the wetness we made together drying under me, that’s what I call this relationship: Perfect.
If you opened your eyes, I’d see they’re the same robin’s egg shade of blue as the sheets. But you don’t open them; they are shut and shaded with a dark fringe of lash.
Perfect, the stubble of two days on your cheeks and chin, the casual shock of black hair falling over your forehead. Perfect, the musculature of your naked frame in a semi-fetal position amongst the bedding. Perfect, the scent of our sweat.
We have the same expectations of each other, the same desires. Neither one of us wants more than the other can give. There will be no heartache or longing. We understand each other.
I rise earlier than you and shower alone, and then hurry back to the bedroom where I can stare at you while I pull on my clothes. Your beauty is breathtaking and for just a moment I wonder how I can leave you here like this.
If I live to be one hundred, I will never experience a love as perfect as ours.
Careful not to wake you completely, I lean over and caress your hair with my cheek.
“I have to go,” I whisper.
You half-turn, half-reach for me, half-asleep. “Already?”
I kiss your lips, which are dry with the morning. “Good-bye.”
Rolling my bag to the door, I take one more look at you and I realize that I have never and will ever know a love as complete as ours. That realization is so profound that I could cry, but I’m too happy for tears.
I step out into the hallway and shut the door behind me, thankful that you never asked me, “What’s your name?”
August 6, 2012
Love was easy in the days
When adolescence barely crested the hill
The sunrise was giddy
The sunset was fire
And all we knew and all we cared to know
Was the landscape of each other.
Shuttles and war exploded
And bills and obligations
Obscured our view and
Love wasn’t so easy to find
When wallets were empty.
But now I look back and
Oh, the love wasted in worry
Unseen for all the bulk rate mail
And unopened letters!
Where was I?
Where were you?
You were there
As was I, although I didn’t always know it
And love was always
Just as easy as your warm embrace
Your julipped drawl
And the brilliance of your crystal eyes.
June 20, 2011
The Archangel Gabriel has just discovered why God forbade fraternization between angels and human women. Oops! It’s too late now, our angelic friend is in love.
In Christian theology, only mankind was given free will. Is Gabriel disobeying? Or is he traveling a preordained path?
December 30, 2010
I didn’t find out that my mom had been married before my dad until I was 21. That summer, my mom took my sister along with my two oldest nieces on a road trip to visit my grandmother and some beans were tipped out of the pot, as it were. Grandma revealed that my mom was married to a young Marine named Kenneth Melton in the late 1940s, prior to meeting and marrying my dad. I always thought it was an amusingly scandalous story considering the day and age, but I didn’t know the half of it. In fact, I didn’t know three-fifths of it until after my father died.
I spent three weeks with my mom following my father’s death. During those long nights alone together, she spilled more beans than Van de Camp. It seems that my father wasn’t her second husband after all; he was her fifth. At sixteen years old she’d impulsively run away and married husband #1. That marriage was annulled within three months. Then came two more husbands, although the facts get rather cloudy at that point. One died after a fall from an oil derrick, one was killed during World War 2. Then she met and married Kenneth Melton and this is where the story really gets good.
My mom and Kenneth lived in Oceanside, California, because he was stationed at Camp Pendleton. During their stay in Oceanside, the MPs were called to the small, rather squalid military housing where Mama lived several times due to domestic violence issues. My mom left Kenneth once and went back home to Pampa, Texas, but he followed her and convinced her to return. But the violence increased. Kenneth had been a prisoner of war of the Japanese during WWII and my mom always said he wasn’t “right” when he came home. He drank to excess and then he’d turn violent. He broke her nose twice.
Over the course of a year or so, my mom began to notice one MP in particular who kept responding to her calls for help. Duane Schipper – a tall, handsome, no-nonsense Marine several years younger than Mama. He never said much, but when he spoke it was low, fierce and left no doubt in anyone’s mind that he’d have no personal objection to killing Kenneth if he laid another hand on my mom.
The day finally came when Mama had enough. She waited until Kenneth was off-base, drinking it up against orders in an Oceanside bar. She called Duane who arranged for an MP escort to wait for Kenneth to emerge from the bar. Kenneth emerged drunk, the MPs hauled him off, and got word to Duane that Kenneth was in the brig. At that point, Duane drove to my mom’s house and loaded her and her suitcase up. He drove her to the train station and then boarded a train with her to San Diego. In San Diego, he got her a bus ticket to Pampa and waited until the bus had departed before he returned to duty at Camp Pendleton.
Three weeks later, my mom had found work at a cafe in Pampa and was waiting tables when Duane walked in. He was on leave, he said. He was on his way home to Iowa to visit his parents for three weeks. Instead, he ended up staying in Pampa for a week and confessed to my mother that he’d followed her because there was nothing else he could do. He was in love. He wanted to marry her. She reminded him that she wasn’t divorced yet and he told her he would wait.
And he did.
My parents were married in 1950 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, much to the chagrin of my Methodist fraternal grandmother who was distraught at the idea of her beloved oldest son marrying a divorced woman. She said it would never last, and she was right. A mere 52 years later, my father died.
November 8, 2010
Love doesn’t diminish just because we’re older. It simply becomes multilingual.
August 16, 2010
Your smile is the crescent moon over my bed,
Arousing me from sleep into laughter.
Your hair is the deep, tangled grass
And your skin is the rich earth
Where I rest my head.
Your breath is the wind sweeping down the prairie
With the sweet smell of wild things,
Of freedom and independence.
Your arms hold me and release me
And support me and set me free.
You are my world and my world is you.
July 3, 2010
I can’t be the only poet and poetry lover who’s noticed that almost all truly wonderful love poems deal with broken hearts and lost and/or unrequited love. It’s difficult to find poetry about love that’s genuine and resonant, yet happy also. I can only suppose that happy lovers don’t write poetry.
Here’s one of my favorite Pablo Neruda pieces, Don’t Go Far Off, Not Even for a Day. It’s not happy, no. But it resonates with me at this time in my life because, with delicate and fragile yet passionate voice, it deals with a love that isn’t lost. I don’t share the poet’s abject, active fear of losing his loved one, but I can certainly understand the pain behind contemplating such an event. I can admire and understand that pathos only from a distance; the love affair I’m in now will never diminish or wander away, not even for a day…
Don’t go far off, not even for a day, because -
Because – I don’t know how to say it: a day is long
And I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
When the trains are parked off somewhere, asleep.
Don’t leave me, even for an hour, because
Then the little drops of anguish will all run together,
The smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
Into me, choking my lost heart.
Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;
May your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.
Don’t leave me for a second, my dearest,
Because in that moment you’ll have gone so far
I’ll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,
Will you come back?
Will you leave me here, dying?
June 29, 2010
It was the rent, the electric, the student loans, all those petty debts that forced Quentin onto the bus as usual on that cloudy Monday morning. It was those crushing and unyielding obligations that dragged him out of bed and into the shower, that dressed and shaved him with numb hands, that packed his lunch and picked up his briefcase on the way out the door. If Quentin had listened to his heart, he would still be in bed trying to sleep away the fact that Laurie was gone.
He sat in his usual seat, one of the side benches facing east on the northbound Orange Line. As the bus hissed away from the curb, it occurred to Quentin that he wasn’t going to live through this heartache.
Someone sat beside him. He barely noticed and, in fact, could have ridden the fourteen blocks to work without acknowledging the woman beside him if she hadn’t reached over and poked his thigh.
Startled, Quentin flinched away from her.
She was middle-aged. Her hair was dyed a shade of red that one didn’t often encounter outside of rose gardens. She smiled at him without showing teeth.
“You’re very sad,” she said.
Quentin frowned. The woman was too far into his personal space. He scooted northward.
She scooted with him, closing the distance between them. “You think you’re the only one.”
Quentin looked around for another empty seat. He spied one and half-rose, but the woman’s hand came down on his knee. He plopped back down and glared at her.
“You’re not the only one, you know,” she whispered.
“Excuse me?” Quentin snapped.
“You’re not the only one who’s had a broken heart.”
Quentin stared at the woman. She looked like an average commuter in her polyester skirt and sneakers, a bag at her feet with sensible heels poking out of it. On her way to a secretarial job, no doubt. He moved his leg out from under her grasp and turned his shoulders towards the front of the bus.
“Oh, I know,” she continued. “No one has ever, will ever, could ever love the way you love. That’s what you’re thinking.” She poked his thigh again. “But you’re wrong. Do you see that old woman over there?”
Quentin glanced in the direction the woman nodded. A doughy woman of seventy or so was sitting in a forward-facing seat, a little boy beside her. She was talking softly to child and from the glow on both of their faces Quentin could imagine she was whispering nonsense. Grammy loves you, all of that crap.
“Let’s make up her story,” the woman beside him said. “When she was young, she was in love with a man whose eyes were on fire and she thought she couldn’t live without him. But her parents wanted her to marry the green grocer down the street. So she married the grocer and sometimes she cried at night for the ‘true love’ she gave up, but she was faithful to the grocer. They had children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her husband is dead now and when she cries alone in her bed at night, who do you think she cries for? She cries for her husband, not for the young man whose name she forgot forty years ago.”
The woman gestured toward the bus driver. “See him? Once there was a woman with chocolate skin that he would have died for. She left him for bass player and he thought he was going to die, it hurt so bad. But here he is, driving this bus and rushing home every night to another woman with chocolate skin who washes his clothes and makes him go to church on Sunday.”
Quentin stared at the driver as if he hadn’t seen him every weekday for the past three years. The man looked tired, but he looked content, too. As if he had something special waiting at the end of each day.
The woman gestured again. “See her?”
Fascinated now, Quentin looked at the fragile girl with the wheat colored hair and the amazing cheekbones. “Yes,” he breathed.
“Watch her closely,” the woman told him. “See how wet her eyes are? She’s still suffering. Let’s say there was a man in college who romanced her in the back room of a frat house party. She thought she meant something to him, but he’s on the west coast now and she’s in an accounting department cubicle with no view, and what would she see if she had one? This gray, dirty city that’s nowhere near a beach.”
Quentin watched the blonde girl as she stared out the window. He saw moisture fill her eyes and saw how she wiped away the spillage with her fingertips.
“Even I have a love story,” the woman beside Quentin sighed. “He promised he’d leave his wife for me, but of course he didn’t.”
She poked Quentin’s thigh again. This time he didn’t move away. “We’ve all ridden this bus,” she said. “We ride it together.”
Quentin clutched his briefcase as the bus jerked to a stop at Twenty-Fourth and Penn. He stood up and looked down at the middle-aged woman as he waited for the door to wheeze open. She smiled at him as Quentin went down the stairs into the fresh air.
He stopped on the sidewalk and looked around. A tentative sun had come out and he thought he felt warmth on his face.