Welcome to this quiet nook.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

At Six Weeks

I love you, but my love has no place to turn from here;
My kisses vanish into thin air before they land.
Such sentiment as flowed through our days halts, ill destined,
Barred going forth, yet barred returning from whence it came.

This permanent futility makes for a poor game.
It cannot amuse, nor satisfy, nor sweetly end
While longing, sorrow, memory, and pain, hand in hand,
Surround and occlude each space from which you disappear.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

In the After

It slithers over
Ordinary moments
The building, churning
Restlessness
And suddenly everything is too
Tight, too
Confining
Too close
The air is even thick with
Some colorless thing

I sit still, hearing myself
Inhale as my
Mind spins
Settling nowhere
Spiraling
And then I recall that
April is coming
But not
Spring, not
Now

I keep a window open with a
Picture and details, as if the
Image in my head is not
Enough, an image the
Sun can’t
Bleach and the
Rain can’t
Wash and the
Snow can’t
Cover

With a quiet sharpness it
Registers that this
Smog filtering through weary lungs is
Grief, and I
Remind myself it
Hasn’t really
Not in the scheme of things
Not really
Been so very long
Since

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Through the Woods


(2011)
Little Red Riding Hood




She knew exactly who he was.

She didn’t, really, not that it mattered. He was the stranger she had no business talking to. He was the distraction that lured her off the path, distorted her focus.

Turned her head.

He was the one her mother had warned her about. Not that her mother had any right to, as things stood now, as things had stood ever since her father had gone and months, possibly years, before that.

And although she also knew exactly where she was, when he touched her, she was lost.

~*~*~


“Grandmother.”

“Yes, dear?”

“Your eyes look so big.” And glassy.

“I can barely see yours, my dear.”

“Your—”

“I know my hands are cold. Everything is cold.”

The old woman was burning with fever; Red could feel it in the hand she held, see it in the flushed cheeks. “Here,” the girl said nevertheless, and she tucked the blankets around her grandmother’s chin against the drafts that they both knew would be felt long before the sun rose. It was pointless to try to make her grandmother drink anything more tonight. Hopefully the medicine would do its work. Hopefully she would sweat in her sleep and be better by morning.

“I’m sorry.” They had not conversed much. Her grandmother was tired, and Red had spent every minute since walking through the door in tending to the elderly patient and easing her discomfort as much as she could. She felt she had not done nearly enough. “I didn’t mean to come so late.”

“Your mother had no business sending you out here alone this time of night.”

“It was my fault.”

“She could have come if she’d wanted to. She never wants to.” The old woman turned away with a face that would have been scowling if it had had strength enough.

“She had so much to do.” Too much, certainly, to spare the time to visit her bedridden parent; the woman in question had instead been lounging in her own bed with her latest “boyfriend,” if the term could be applied to a man one had met only two days ago. Red didn’t even know his name. She had stopped asking for that sort of detail sometime after the twentieth or thirtieth one, and her mother had never taken the trouble to impart such trivialities.

“She leaves both of us,” her grandmother said slowly, “to our own devices. Has for years.”

Red could not dispute this. “It’s a good thing we have each other, then.”

“Yes,” the woman answered with a phantom smile.

Red listened while her grandmother drifted into a tenuous doze, guilt eating at her as she thought about her own mystery man in the woods. She couldn’t have cured anything by arriving before sunset, but she would have provided more timely assistance if she hadn’t dallied so long. She got up and stretched, not eager to go back down the path toward home, no matter how familiar.

Even if he were still there, watching for her. But surely he was not.

~*~*~


He had come up right next to her, had fallen in step with her, before saying anything at all.

“I am not that sort,” she said finally, speaking the first words between them forty-six matched steps later.

“I never said you were.” He didn’t deny he had been thinking of how easy it would be to have her here, where no one would see them. She didn’t want to hear him deny it because she wouldn’t believe him if he did, and then she wouldn’t want to hear anything else he had to say. She wanted to continue to like the sound of his voice. It was pleasant—soothing, even, despite its roughness. And he had a face she could get used to seeing around. It wasn’t some silly kid’s face like the ones in the hallways at high school or even in her college classes, more awkward or arrogant than attractive.

She had just become a woman, turned eighteen at the end of summer, but he was thoroughly a man.

~*~*~


“Stay,” the voice from the bed croaked, startling her. “Too late, too dark. Stay here.”

“Alright.”

Red didn’t bother to call home, as if her mother would care—she certainly wouldn’t be sitting up waiting for her or even listening for the turn of the key in the lock. Her mother loved her rest far too much for that.

Red glanced over and saw that her grandmother was really sleeping now—face relaxed and breathing a bit noisy but even. Maybe she would sleep through the night.

~*~*~


They had said very little after that first exchange. Some gossip from town, a comment about squirrels, a joke he had made—it was very funny, and she’d had to force herself not to laugh.

The silences were peaceful.

She knew she should be on her way, but she couldn’t help slowing down when he did.

~*~*~


The worn yellow gown she found in one of the spare bedroom dresser drawers looked far too small. After her shower, she picked it up from where she had draped it over the doorknob and pulled it over her head. It came to the top of her thighs, and it pinched under the arms. But it was soft, and the torso fit well enough, if tightly in places that had grown up as she had. She took it off again and ripped the sleeves until she knew the garment would be sufficiently comfortable for one night, at least.

~*~*~


It got so late the sun had started to set. They’d stopped to observe it.

“I had hoped to be on my way back by now,” she told him without shifting her eyes from the colorful view.

“Ever been kissed?”

What kind of question is that, she wondered. She raised her eyebrow and turned, hoping her look would answer him eloquently enough. Of course she had been kissed. Sadly, not in any memorable way, and certainly not by many, but it had been done.

“Hmm,” he said, taking her face in his hand and seeming to study it.

His kisses were slow and warm. When he finished, the orange firelight had faded from the sky, and the blue was slipping into a shadowy charcoal gray.

What time was it? Only with effort could she recall the day of the week. “I had better go.” She turned around twice, mind in a thick fog, before recognizing the way to her grandmother’s house and sprinting toward it in the deepening dusk.

~*~*~


She walked the few paces to the kitchen door and peeked outside, keeping the chain on, when she heard the rustling and the footsteps. Her grandmother didn’t have many neighbors and none very near. Then she heard him call out to her. She opened the door properly and stepped barefoot onto the dark porch, letting the door close behind her and take all but a sliver of light with it.

“How is she?” He stood unnervingly still. “Your grandmother.”

“Not well, but not horrible. She’s sleeping.”

Red listened to the silence. It seemed as tranquil as the intervals of quietness between them earlier that day, but this time she felt restless. “Why did you follow me here?” she asked when he didn’t appear inclined to say anything else.

“I wanted to make sure you were alright.”

He wanted more than that, she was certain. She stared at him, or at what she could see of him, and licked her lips, thinking of the peppermint tea she had just fixed for herself and had yet to taste, and thinking of other things as well. She considered going back inside, but she knew she’d only come right out again. If he thought, however…

“I am not my mother.”

“I knew that the first time I laid eyes on you.”

Then she realized why she had known him and liked him immediately and not been at all afraid. He had come to the house months ago to inspect or repair something or other—she couldn’t remember what, since there were so many things that needed fixing—and had steadfastly, though politely, disregarded her mother’s flirting. The scene would have been embarrassing had it not been such a common occurrence; the only uncommon element was his decided lack of interest. Her mother had finally pouted and waved them both away in exasperation, saying, “Yes, yes, Red, show the man out.” He hadn’t even watched her mother leave the room, but he had turned to her as he left, telling her to call if they had any more problems. They had shaken hands. And he had given her his name.

John.

“Maybe I’m like my father.” She considered this. She vaguely remembered the man that had smiled so infrequently and spoken even less often, bent by worries and work and broken by his wife’s faithlessness. But then he had given up, too. He, too, it could be assumed, had moved on—who knew how many times? Perhaps as many as her mother. She thought of her grandmother’s three ex-husbands. “Maybe I’m like a wolf,” she decided, frowning.

“What?” He laughed and tilted his head until she could feel his breath at her temple. “And mate for life, do you mean? They don’t always, Red.”

She nodded. She wouldn’t say his name just yet, even though she relished hearing him say hers; he made it sound like more than the color of her hair. “But sometimes they do,” she insisted.

“I’ll grant that.”

He reached around her with one arm and pulled her close. His lips were cold at first. Or were hers? Either way, they warmed up soon enough. His other hand wandered under the gown and over her, unencumbered by clothing she hadn’t thought to bring along for a stay she hadn’t planned.

Just when she believed she couldn’t bear any more, his touch sent her soaring into the starless night, and only the gentle pressure of his mouth on hers kept her from crying out with the ecstasy of it. She shivered and quavered in his arms.

“Wh-What,” she gasped. “How….Oh. Oh.

“You’ve never…”

“No.” She shook her head as reason returned.

“Well, then.”

He held her for a long time.

“Maybe,” he said eventually, “I can be like a wolf.”

She looked up.

“Maybe,” he repeated. He smiled; she could hear it in his voice—smiled so much that his maybe sounded like a yes, of course, definitely, you know that I will to her jaded ears.

She felt herself smiling back.


The End

Monday, February 14, 2011

February 14th

A "kiss" theme seems appropriate: below are kisses made of wishes, a "whoops" kiss, and a kiss-of-death-for-a-friendship miss.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Very, Very Long One and Our Last

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
January 24, 2011
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If I try
I can still feel the place
Where the ball of your hand pressed the flesh above my elbow
I could have bent my arm and held you there a little longer
If I could have held you at all
And the spot where I had wedged my shoulder between the door and the frame
Before you pulled me back in
(I had been on my way out of the room, as you will remember)
And my feet, the toe of one shoe awkwardly perched atop the other
And your feet surrounding them, bracing them

I can feel the way my jaw stretched
As though attempting to call forth a note at the tip of my range
Only hurriedly, frantically
As if I were in a race
As if you would have slipped past me had I slowed down even for a moment

It was soft and hard
A sliver of rainbow shot through cirrus clouds
The dull red glow of the alarm clock
Birdsong and melancholy sonatas and breathing
Salt from the chips
And sweetness from the cola you had drunk to wash them down
And that scent of warmth and skin
The scent that tells you that you are very, very close

If I try
I can believe it was, as you said, an accident, an anomaly
One that will never happen again

Friday, January 14, 2011

what i realized after

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
January 12, 2011
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

i had meant to look at you
when you were talking
i really had
but i was thinking of so many things

had i looked at you
perhaps i would have seen
that you didn’t want me to answer

perhaps i would have kept my mouth shut

had i looked
i would have held you
with my eyes

i would have stared and stared
until my expression mirrored yours
or complemented it
which might have been a comfort

but my words, tepid and disjointed,
made you turn away

and when i looked at last
you were gone

Just Friends

How many times have you tried to write one thing and ended up with something else? I started out with the first line and the intention of writing a jazz-flavored ballad and ended up with a poem. I still can't come up with any kind of tune to go with it. Which is just as well, since I can't play jazz for anything...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
January 13, 2011
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I wish I had a kiss to spare for you,
One not bound up in promises and ties—
For I would never want to care for you
In ways that fill my lips with pretty lies.

And you? Friendship is all you’ve ever sought.
So must my inconvenient odds and ends
Be relegated to a tender thought,
For you and I will always be just friends.

Yet had I proper words to say to you,
Articulating what I cannot show,
Or, lacking those, the skill to play to you,
Arpeggiating what I’d have you know,

I’d find the intersecting lines of chance
Where inexorability begins
And hurtle heedlessly down happenstance
T’ward you, for all we’d always be just friends.

There are times I wonder why
This quiet yearning
Has wrapped itself around my cautious heart.
Then such moments skitter by,
And Earth keeps turning,
While our mostly separate lives
Go on mostly worlds apart.

Don’t think I’d want it any other way.
I’ll harbor no regrets or might-have-beens
But wish my empty wishes as I may,
Content that we will always be just friends.