LOVE POEM #62 – INSIDE THE BOX

It is hard to believe that love,

the greatest achievement in human emotion,

can be contained within four cardboard walls

like a mouse caught by children.

 

But when the string pulls out the stick

and the box comes crashing down overhead

you can’t even think to escape

before those blinders are stuck in place.

 

Or perhaps you aren’t of mice,

but are of men; a cleaner cut,

and you’ve huddled between those walls

as a last defense against the cold.

 

Those sopping, winter rains run swiftly

‘round your sweet little box

begging to enter, and it’s all you can do

to keep your bent doorway from breaking in.

 

Or perhaps it isn’t a person at all.

Perhaps inside your box are pictures

of people long past, with pretty green eyes,

dusty from years of preservation.

 

You might remember them, at the beach,

where the silky waves of seawater

wove between your feet

like their fingers between your hands.

 

But nowadays those oceans of blue

are only visited in memories

and the sea can only seep out

through the overcast lids of your eyes.

——

 

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DREAMS OF THE FAIR

This week I had a dream that I was trying to go to the fair. The ticket booth, which was the only was to get in, was on a dirty covered hillside, behind a row of strangely placed buildings. There was no parking near any of them—the closest parking had been up at the top of a plateau, about half a mile up from the ticket booth. There were pine trees scattered about and another half-mile past you could see the fair. I had gotten in line behind a few slow moving people. I think I had been trying to meet my little brother, my older sister, and my father there.

The fair itself looked quite a bit more spectacular than the local one we get. There were dozens of rides that rose above the walls, and off to the east there was a strange roof that appeared to be made of water, which had reflected light through it in the way that a pool does. It was so exciting—and frustrating, because the line hadn’t moved. There were only a few people there. I remember thinking, Why are people so inept? before I actually decided to look around and see what was going on.

The line had three people ahead of me, all of them were elderly and white. So white, they looked as though they had bathed in a tub of bleach. All of them were wearing strange clothing. One, a woman, wore a big yellow rain coat, and massive rain boots to match. In front of her was a man, dressed in an all-grey track suit, with a pair of running shoes that had been so worn they were beginning to fray. The last person was dressed in a light green sundress, though I couldn’t distinguish if they were male or female. But they were certainly grey haired and wrinkly.

All of them were looking down, and the young woman in the ticket booth was looking beyond confused. She had called “next” several times, though even I hadn’t heard her say it until I saw her. I skipped ahead of the line when I realized nobody else was moving. When I began to walk past each person, the elderly people slowly raised their heads in disdain, but none of them moved to stop me.

I don’t remember speaking to the girl, nor getting inside the fair, yet somehow I’d made it there. I was in the water-roofed room. The ceiling had no glass, but somehow, as if by magic, the water was all suspended in the air. It was a beautiful sight, like the spirit of vacation incarnated. And it was the last thing I remember seeing before I woke up.

 

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WAVES ON A PAGE

My return to literature was like a sailor

returning to the salt air after a decade ashore.

 

The thin clatter of books from bookshelves

were like oars clattering into a paddle boat.

The small creak of hardback covers sounded

like wooden planks curling beneath my feet.

 

It wasn’t long before I’d raised sails,

and made my way into the first waves

on a broad, shining sea of letters.

 

After a few bumpy chapters,

the waves came rocking,

building, like a crescendo,

until each page was its own torrent

of water and hellfire crashing;

battering and beating the boat

 

and I was there screaming along,

mad with the thrill of the ride.

 

Until finally the pages shut,

the seas grew quiet,

and I found myself drifting along

waiting patiently for another storm.

——

 

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LOVE POEM #61 – THE DAY I FELL IN LOVE

It wasn’t a radiant day, it wasn’t a star-lit night,

it wasn’t a summer sun, it wasn’t a winter light.

It was just a day. A day, much like today,

where the rancid weight of our rotten job

rolled over my toes for the fourth time in a week.

 

There was no oak tree, nor one ripe with peach,

no simple sunset, nor calm, sandswept beach.

It was just a day, much like today,

where grey-white clouds blotched blue skies.

 

And yet, in you, I found a cliché dream

hidden like rain in those sky blue eyes.

A dream of diamond ringlets, crested with rubies and gold,

where the plunder of power was too weak to take hold.

 

But that was just a day, a day just like today,

that wasn’t like to come again

So Carpe Diem; I seized the day.

——

 

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LOVE POEM #59 – THE APPROACHING NIGHT

Falling in love with you was like

listening to The Approaching Night

beneath an outstretched tree branch

in the backyard of my childhood home

while the yellow-orange sun glimmered

between sunset and nightfall.

 

In that short moment of reverence

it felt as though the great chariot

road across the sky just for you;

as perfectly balanced as a tightrope walker

so that neither of us were burned.

 

And yet looking at you tonight,

I can see that the approach of night

has long since passed us into the smaller hours.

Where the piano music twinkles

with the starlight; eternal

impassioned, and beloved.

 

Even though the lines of age

have filled your face with wisdom,

and bones once strong as the mighty oak

have grown flaccid and weary,

I see in you now the nova of life

burning more brightly than ever before,

having accepted that the inevitable extinguishing

is best enjoyed while living in the apex of the sun.

——

 

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NIGHT ON THE BARE MOUNTAIN

When I finally reached the flat top of the mountain, I was greeted by a flatland that was more the top of a hill than a mountain—so green and grassy I could hardly believe myself. I took a nap for a while, and when I awoke the sun had been falling.

The sudden rush of cold air had taken me by surprise, marking the end of the day. Nightfall was setting in, and the air had taken a dramatic turn from the comforts of that afternoon. I had spent the day hiking to the top of the bald mountain. It had been a beautiful hike to the top. The sky had been a clear blue, with sky shrouds only at the edges of the world view.

But it had also been quite treacherous. There were many places where the rocks threatened to give way, and the way down was no easier. Each step felt like I was trudging through the snow, hoping not to fall into some unseen depths. I turned a corner on the main path, and was blown by a powerful gust, which knocked me on my backside and rolled me toward the edge of a cliff. My legs were dangling over the side when I finally got control again, and the wind subsided. I looked down at the eons of space beneath me, like a vast mouth of darkness, threatening to swallow me up like Jonah. Grasping for the strands of ground, I managed to scramble back to my feet, and continue down.

I was given a brief respite for most of the rest of the way down, and eventually grew accustomed to the treacherous ground and chill air. The clouds had rolled in in droves, like a pack of beasts descending in the night, and when the first crack on lightning shot through the sky, it sounded almost like they had made the call for pursuit. The rains fell then, hard. Each drop was a rock, and blurred my vision. But I was getting close to the bottom.

The tempest was in full throttle then. It felt as though it were sent there, just to trap me. I had begun running, though I couldn’t remember when. I hopped over bushes, between fallen branches, and across small gaps in the path, emboldened and afraid of what would come next. I wanted to get away before more went wrong. The trees were shaking; rattling like snakes coiled, and the path had grown thick with mud. Many steps became more like surfing through waves of mud than stepping through them.

Until finally, I broke out from behind the last tree, and the world grew quiet. I looked back at the bald mountain, which looked like Sisyphus trapped in his own hell then. But I had escaped. I walked over to my car and drove home, though I kept my eye on the mountain as it grew more distant, just to make sure the storm stayed with it.

——

 

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THE SECOND HEARTBREAK

I still remember my first heartbreak. I was a child of ten, sitting on our dirty house sofa, watching Avatar: the Last Airbender. It was the episode where Aang loses Appa to the sand benders, and the weight of loneliness crept in at the edges of anger. In between the scratches of static on the TV, I could feel the enormity of losing a loved on for the first time sinking in through the empathy of my being as this beloved titan of the cartoon world was carted away into enslavement.

I felt my legs shake, and the hollowness of my house that evening began to feel much larger than it ever had before. Dad was on a flight to New York, and mom wouldn’t be back from work until bedtime. As the credits rolled, I stumbled over to the TV, and clicked the OFF button, then slumped to the floor in a pile of depression. How could someone take his love away like that? Didn’t they consider how that made him feel? Why would anyone be so cruel? By the time the key to the door finally turned in the lock and my mother entered the house, I had accepted that some people do not consider the feelings of others, and act selfishly.

I would have thought that such strong emotions would have prepared me for the first time I caught my partner cheating, five years later. I had taken up basketball, which we played after school every day at the courts next to our campus. The girl I was dating then would come watch us play every day until her mother picked her up. One day, I decided to surprise her with a group of flowers I had collected, before the practice. I asked the teacher if I could leave early and everything. I went to the flower garden, and picked the nicest five roses I could find—four red and one striking white. I rushed over to the quad her class was located in, took a seat on a bench outside her vision so I could run up and surprise her, and waited until the bell rang. When it did, I could feel jitters of excitement crawling through my veins. It was so perfect.

But when the door to her classroom opened, I saw her walk out with another guy. Tall, white, classically handsome. They were both laughing. I kept my distance. She’d never talked about someone like this, but they were walking toward the courts together. Eventually, they came to the corridor just before the court I played on. It was after practice would have started, about three minutes before she usually trotted out to meet me.

They just started going at it, like wolves ravenous for each other’s face. He pinned her against the wall, one hand in hers, the other gripping her backside, all the while she was breathing so hard I could hear it from my hiding space. He turned her around, and pressed up against her, kissing her neck and grinding against her hips. They were completely fearless of any onlookers, like they had done this a dozen times with no problems. When she fell to her knees, and brought her hands to his belt buckle, I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. My stomach was spinning with disgust, the pain in my chest felt like someone had stabbed my lungs, and tears were building up in my eyes with the hacking sobs that claim distressed children.

I snapped a quick picture, which I have come to regret, of the mouthful she had, then walked down the hall past them to practice, completely stone-faced. No words, no recognition—I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of knowing she mattered. She stood up faster than a cat in a thunderstorm, pushing him away from her and apologizing. But her words fell on deaf ears. People were selfish. I knew that.

——

 

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A DAY AT THE FAIR

Emerging from under the shadowy tunnel

into the blinding sunlight of the September fair

builds more child-like suspense in me

than any movie soundtrack could.

 

Suddenly, all those twenty-two years

melt back into the sevens and eights

where oceans of cotton candy and

rivers of soda pop were mine to sail through.

 

The loud hums of the stereotyped amusements,

from Mexican dancers to redneck farmers

whistle through the air like a swarm of bees,

and I hadn’t a care in the world.

 

I roamed about like that, in half a daze,

so filled with the happiness of the afternoon

that I nearly forgot the Ferris Wheel,

and anyone who knows me knows

that I’d never forget the Ferris Wheel.

 

There’s something beautiful

looking out over the plane of the world

at a point that no human was meant to see

where the air tastes fresher than spring

and the Earth seems perfectly still.

 

Even if it is just for a moment,

before the basket of humans makes another spin

and we all have to step off the ride

to go home again.

——

 

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LOVE POEM #57 – THE WONDERING HEIGHTS

Do you ever wonder what they say

in the midnight hours when you’ve gone away?

 

I left her legs shaking, but I couldn’t tell you

if it was from the sex or from the déjà vu,

because when I packed my bags that night

she was still hot-blooded from another fight

where I had called her a fork-tongued bitch

and she’d ran at me swinging a willow switch.

 

Which marked the bloody end to our bloody marriage,

though it’d been over since the first miscarriage—

where they’d doused the fire in her eyes

after filling her heart with doctoral lies.

 

But on the empty road with dim street lights

my mind will take me to the wondering heights.

That place where people want cell phone passwords

even though they’ll regret it afterwards.

 

I was thinking about how in June

I walked in on her with a man in our room.

They was only talking, and only for work,

but there was a look on her face I couldn’t shirk.

A guilt, a silence, an unsaid thing,

like a child caught losing their mother’s ring.

 

I spent my night there, and the morning too,

waiting for our court ordered adieu,

wishing that we had said “I’m sorry”

and talked out are troubled inquiry

rather than avoided each other with vengeful hate

and been unable to set things straight.

——

 

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ROCKSLIDE (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Sun Struck

Sun struck bricklayers

are blinded by the mundane

and don’t see good lives.

 

Fresh Water

If water is life

then I would fill my cup in

the ocean of you.

 

Rockslide

A few tough pebbles

thrown well into the quarry

can cause a rockslide.

 

Civilization

A third city built

by spilling the blood of men

and burning forests.

 

Exploring Beaches

Small hands dig seashells

out of their half buried sleep

to hear ocean songs.

——

 

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