Dead

Intuition.  Bohemians, outsiders, cherish intuition.  That insight, that awareness, that…knowing.  I knew when I saw him.  I knew I loved him.  He wasn’t shy of the other women in the gallery and he wasn’t disdainful.  He was watching people look at art which was so evocative.  He saw me and I forced myself not to turn away.  I wanted him to know that I was staring.  Staring right at him.

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Intuition.  Bohemians, outsiders, cherish intuition.  That insight, that awareness, that… knowing.  I realized when I looked at him that loved him.  His mannerisms did not indicate shyness regarding the other women in the gallery nor did his features let slip any thoughts of disdain.  The man watched people look at art, his obvious curiosity regarding other people’s reactions filled me with a longing hard to suppress, even harder to hide. Noticing my stare or rather acknowledging my star by turning toward me, for I felt certain he knew I had been staring for some time, he smiled slightly.   I willed myself not to turn away from his gaze. I felt a desire to challenge him in some manner yet I wanted to run.

“So how often does he brush his teeth in a day do you suppose?”

My mother’s voice.  My dead mother’s voice.  She died seven years ago, but she has never left me.  I loved my mother and I love my mother but her interference at the moment I was staring at the man who intrigued me flustered me to near tears.  My shoulders tensed, waiting for my mother’s voice to sound in my ears again.  I wanted, needed, the deep background music of love to sweep over me as I looked at this tall, slender man, dressed in a somber dark suit.  I needed a moment without questions.  I wanted to plead with my mother.

“I suppose he reads in the bathroom.  He looks the intellectual type…”

“Mother,” I hissed and stepped away from no one.  A few people looked my way.  Did he notice me talking to myself?  I took a deep breath willing my shoulders down and imagining my face serene and unhampered by anything but the art surrounding me.  I wandered in an aimless relaxed manner, at least I hoped I was wandering in an aimless relaxed manner.  I was urging the tall slender man to approach me.  I wanted to him to compel him to approach me.

“Well, he is a tall drink of water, isn’t he?  Your father was so short, God bless him.  He would provide the tall gene our family so needs.  Your kids would come up to his navel.  Wouldn’t matter if you had girls.”

I whirled around infuriated with my mother.  She was dead.  Dead.  She needed to get out of my head.  I stomped back to my chair the man of my dreams forgotten and grabbed my hand knitted alpaca wrap.  Swinging it around my head and letting it float gently down upon my shoulders, closing my eyes and breathing deeply as the light but ever warming shawl gently floated down upon my shoulders I willed some calmness into my body; leaving was my best option.

“You haven’t even looked at the exhibit.”

I didn’t turn around, anger and frustration bristled out in rudeness.  “I know,” I said, defeated and humiliated.  “A friend of mine is the artist.”  I suddenly had no strength to explain.  My voice tightened in a sobbing disappointment.  I had so looked forward to the evening.  Great, I was going to cry over my dead mother’s assessment of an attractive man; she always brought men down to mud level.

“I suppose your mother is a little jealous of anyone who connects mentally with you.”

“She’s not a bad person,” I said quickly and in defense of my mother.  “She worries about me.” I felt a sudden chill.  Turning I was face to face with a light blue silk shirt neatly sheathed by a dark suit.  He stood before me, his expression kind but his features set and his skin an icy hue.

“Hmm.  Yes.  Most mothers worry and not without reason.  Your mother worries you will do something rash.”

“She’s been dead seven years,” I said gazing up at him, his bright blue eyes clear and without judgment.

“Your wrap is beautiful.  Did you make it yourself?”

I nodded

“Did your mother teach you to knit?”

“Yes,” I said quietly.

“Have a glass of wine with me and let’s walk the gallery. Your friend will want to know why you don’t walk the gallery. We can’t explain your dead mother.”

“How do you know about my mother?”

“Intuition,” he smiled down at me, handed me a glass of red wine, his hand was blue-ice cold yet lovely.  “Intuition is ingrained in bohemians and outsiders, we cherish the ability.”

The Wedding

“Do you remember our wedding?”

“Do you want to dance?”

“No”

“Why not?”

“I’ve asked you a question do you remember our wedding?”

“Do you remember our wedding?”

“Do you want to dance?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I’ve asked you a question do you remember our wedding?”

“Honey, of course, I remember our wedding. You wore white, I was in a rented suit and the man who married us hated me.”

“My Grandfather married us.”

“Exactly.”

“You are sure Grandpa hated you.”

“Pretty sure.”

“Nonsense!”

“No, no, it’s okay. I wouldn’t want to marry off my daughter or granddaughters.”

“But if you were marrying off our son?”

“Well… every son should marry…eventually.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Do you want to dance?”

“No, I’m pretty much danced out.”

“Don’t want to dance with an old man.”

“No, I just don’t want to dance.”

“Well, at least you will be seen with an old man.”

“I’m sitting here.”

“Ah thank you. Especially for sitting next to me for nearly 25 years.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Woman, has it been that bad?”

“Being married to you?”

“Yes, being married to me.”

“No.”

“No… and what else?”

“Did you expect more?”

“Yes.”

“Well, you don’t remember our wedding so why should I expound upon our marriage?”

“For the love of God… I remember our wedding. Your Grandfather married us and your Father gave you away. All three of your brothers were either ushers or standing next to me. And we all knew that before that night was over I’d convince you to step out of that frilly white dress you wore.”

“My dress was not frilly!”

“God help me.”

“Were you nervous? I would have thought you would have been over that. I already said yes.”

“Yes dear, you said yes. They didn’t.”

“Well for Pete’s sake, they didn’t threaten you or anything.”

“How do you know?”

“All right that’s enough.”

“Well, you won’t dance with me and you won’t tell me how you feel being married to me so what am I suppose to do?”

“Hm. You are at a disadvantage aren’t you?”

“How do you mean?”

“You must speak to me sitting here, don’t you?”

“Now what is that suppose to mean?”

“Well after 25 years you’ve become accustomed to being around me. Relaxed enough to spend hours in your books, write, putter in the garage with your wood working… it’s been some time since you’ve asked me my opinion… well on you.”

“Oh, so I’ve become a bore.”

“I don’t recall calling you a bore.”

“I sound boring.”

“You may sound boring but not to me.”

“Okay, I’m a little confused.”

“Did my Grandfather wear a rented suit or his black suit?”

“His black suit with that white color of his.”

“Did my Mother wear the lavender suit?”

“No, she wore that apricot looking thing—your Father was furious at her for buying two dresses for one wedding.”

“Do you really want to know what it’s like being married to you?”

“Yes… really I want to know.”

“I like being married to you.”

“Well, that’s a relief, why?”

“Because when I walk past you while you are reading, you’ll gently take my hand and pull me to a stop and say ‘listen to this’.”

“Any book you prefer over another?”

“No–I prefer the sound of your voice.”

“Oh.”

“And lately I’ve come to appreciate that you don’t shave on Saturdays. And you don’t seem to mind that most of your beard has turned white. I kind of like the way it feels when you kiss me.”

“Really? I can probably manage that a few more times a week…”

“No, once a week is fine but I appreciate your quick response and willingness to expand.”

“Oh, my pleasure. Anything else?”

“I appreciate you cleaning out the cat box every Saturday.”

“The cat box? You witch! You had me hook, line and sinker.”

“No, really you have me hook, line and sinker.”

“Really?

“Really.”

“And when did that happen—I mean when you decided you loved me?”

“I don’t know it just happened sometime between year one and 25.”

“Not before?”

“Possibly.”

“Hm… And no regrets about Jeff Smith?”

“What do you know about him?”

“That I had a pretty close call with you, because of him.”

“Robert, when did you decide you loved me?”

“The night you put your suitcase in Jeff Smith’s Chevy.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The night you ran away. You were sick of this town, your overprotective family and terrified you would work the soda fountain at the pharmacy for the rest of your life.”

“I told no one about that.”

“You lied to your mother, told her you were with Lydia that weekend. You’d see her at church.”

“Robert, I told no one about that!”

“I watched you leave and about cried in my hymnal Sunday morning when I saw you in your usual spot.”

“You watched me leave. Understood I was gone. You asked me to marry you not too long after that!”

“I didn’t want to watch another Exodus.”

“You fool!”

“Why?”

“Well—how did you know—well nothing happened?”

“I didn’t. And frankly, I was a little shocked on our wedding night—well when everything was intact.”

“Robert!”

“I was pleasantly shocked.”

“Robert!”

“Why did you come back?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know.”

“Really. I cried like a baby 20 miles from town. I remember he tried his best to convince me I was doing the right thing… but I couldn’t stop crying.”

“It took him a full 24 hours to get you back 20 miles from town?”

“He dropped me at my Grandfather’s.”

“I thought you said you didn’t tell anyone.”

“And I didn’t. Grandfather never asked. I fell asleep, exhausted on his couch and he fixed me scrambled eggs and sausage the next morning.”

“Hm,”

“Yeah, hm.”

“Listen we are at this wedding, there is dancing. We don’t do much of that sort of thing, so would you like to dance with me?”

“No… I want to go home.”

“Why?”

“Because today is Saturday, and you had to shave.”

“So?”

“Well, I think tomorrow the world can wonder where we are for a day and you can catch up on your reading.”

“What else can we catch up on?”

“You’ll just have to wait and see.”

Immortal Spaniels

The spaniel was immortal and sighed often.

Maudlin music and less than red linen made for soft people she felt, yes felt, which was beyond knew and just before faith –

In oneself.

Her red was of the blackish kind and her curtains blocked out the sunlight and opened to the rain of days- she was content.

She knew that was it.  She knew.  The world bloomed red in small startling places and she searches for the sear and pucker of it in the dead of winter

This proved effective to draw her attention away from the doggish way he looked upon her.  He had a spaniel that she liked and wished was hers

But he wasn’t.

They were well sheltered within the stonewalled cottages that were between a farm house and just shy of a manor house — and the walls encompassed them and there they lived.

Her looking for scarlet and he looking at her.

The spaniel was immortal and sighed often.

Magicians were not allowed through the gates and witches could fly over but the breeze was constant and she could not tempt fate with this or that bauble of love.

A nod, not even a sur name offered when they met upon the cobbled street, she always with her eye on the corner of a stone building looking for red.

What could he do?  Learn to dance?  Pray for drought? He walked the dog and they spied her over the scarlet rose of autumn.  Embolden he walked to the place and bent his head to smell the flower.

He looked back up to see her gazing out upon the horizon.

“Stay,” he said, “and the dog will dance until you see the famous scarlet sunset.”

She stayed and as the sun played out the light of evening he whirled her round and the dog barked and gamboled about their feet.

And the scarlet of sunset reflected against the once stone walls of their lives.

Dead Today

How long are we dead Missy? A moment, a flash of time that encompasses exquisite pain and then – what? Do we remain in a paroxysm of memory or do we go blank a sudden release?  And really, old friend, what is worse?

So I read today that you are dead.

Are dead, and were dead, and was dead. Ah the beauties of the English language, each statement reflects for the audience who I am…well to hell with them.

How long are we dead Missy? A moment, a flash of time that encompasses exquisite pain and then – what? Do we remain in a paroxysm of memory or do we go blank a sudden release?  And really, old friend, what is worse?

Your obituary was short and brief; no viewing, no opportunity to submit to your favorite charity – the abortion clinic, the woman’s homeless shelter or possibly the city’s club for user men. They put you in your grave and since weather permits a “brief” family ceremony is allowed, graveside, where the dirt hides their mess now. At last, my friend, your very own address.

And what dear, is the ceremony about? The children that don’t know you because you were unfit or broke or worse, deceived into believing you were too much of all the above?  What of the son who was raised by your parents, the same parents who smiled at our girl scout uniforms and told us both we were communists? What, would, will, shall, it be about?

And your “companions,” will they be there? Yeah, I know dear and so do you, if they slept with you then they loved you right? Tell me, did you ever get over that notion? You know, being able to brush your teeth, look in the mirror and say, ‘I am more than an easy lay’? Or did it ever occur to you that possibly sex, no matter how intense, is not love? Did they ever give you the time?

Maybe, I don’t know.

Missy, I always thought you pretty; your smoke-blue eyes and blemishless ivory skin, even young as we were, I thought you pretty. It was always you who ran from the boys on the playground — they showing you their crotch and yelling, “sharpen my pencil, Missy, sharpen it for me.” On the playground, God help the early-developed girl.

Later we watched the boys, who stood up straight for the blond prom queen’s father. While they fawned over future wives, they made sure you knew their intent; making you blush and me shudder. They snickered in their Christian youth groups and pondered you. We fooled ourselves into thinking that their gold crosses meant something to them. But they were raised right and condoms were always ready in their pockets and roomy back seats. For justice’s sake, I wish them daughters with large breasts and low self-esteems.

As for me, I wait for the dead to tap on my windowpane, and for someone else to tell me their name. Today it was yours and in a swirl of green girl scout uniforms, hobo Halloween costumes and trampled prom dresses your blank, smoke-blue eyes, look back at me, no more questions just perhaps surprise.

 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Rock of Ages Light

Shipwreck and remembering the Great Lakes

Sounding Thunder,

Wind in our sails

Good sailing,

Economy counts

And always will.

We sailed the crew low-

A woman to cook, a boy to pray.

The wind in November there is

Nothing at all like her.

The ice encased the hatchways

Freshwater knives cut and

crack our skin.

The young men cry for mothers.

And one hundred years later, in safe harbor,

The generations etch our tomb in radar.

The sensitive woman may wonder

One hundred years from now

And tomorrow, they’ll forget

The waves that slide and take

Sounding Thunder down

To the Rock of Ages.

Pillar of Salt

Lake Huron, so placid – at times.

Roger’s City and Alpena

The sunrise side

Of cold, cold mourning

Head down, no warning.

Mists of Huron

A grip so soft

yet so unrelenting –

What lies of

Beautiful dreams

Do you have for me now?

What passion

Can you wrench from

Me so as to mock

The salt that I am

And you,

You, Huron, are not.

Never have you turned

Around, never has

Regret found you

Above sin, above passion

Like being in love

With a marble

Statue

And I love you.

Sincerely, I do.

Steel Water

Steel Water is a fresh water poem.

So much is now known, my love

Your hand upon your chair

Your gaze focused on the distance

So much is now known my love and yet

So much remains unclear.

 

Often you left to roam so great an unknown

Your hand upon my hair

Your gaze focused on my face to memorize every trace.

Often you left me to make

Known the Unknown.

 

Weeping and lonely through

Childbirth and longing you left me.

Your hand upon the great wooden wheel

Your feet firmly planted on waves of fresh water steel,

So much of it is now known.

 

Every piece of land only an inlet or peninsula

The creak and moan of our home just a reminder of

Launch and storm.

Buffeted by wind and ice, your back straighter

Only I am frailer.

 

Now sit upon your chair

Less weathered than mine.

You sit and gaze upon fresh water, fine sand

And sip wine.

So much, my love, is now known, but who am I?

 

Slowly you approach your hand slides along the small of my back.

“You are the steel water, you are my sight

You are my freedom, my longing, my right

To sail the fresh water.

Come to me, my love, and make yourself known.”