On A Reaction to My “5 Times” Poems

Yo, dude —

What the hell is up with these low-T stories? You had a girlfriend in college, and never slept with her? I think I might know why she left you. Seriously.


You know, it ruins poetry
To have to explain it.
But —
I didn’t recount the story
To make myself look good,
Or make her look bad, or good,
Or anything.
I was trying to describe
A thing that happened.

You see,
Everything we do, as human beings,
Is dictated by either instinct (at worst)
Or emotion (at best).
It was the emotions I was
Interested in reliving: how it felt.

Our tendency, in these times,
Is to put things in some sort of
Bizarre moral context:
The “you-should-have-done-this-instead-of-that” world
You apparently live in.

When it comes to recounting events
The only thing that matters
Is truth:
Although I won’t deny that
When it comes to learning from them
A viewpoint something like yours
Comes into play.

What we learn from any relationship is always
Half about the other person
And half about ourselves.

Believe me:
Low testosterone
Was not the issue;
Negotiating the desire to be
In control of my own feelings was.

The biggest issue I see with relationships —
Mine and everyone else’s —
Is the desire to be in control of the other person.
How to carry on relationships
On equal footing is always the real task.

But I appreciate your concern for my wellbeing,
And will consider your critique of my artistic choices
As time allows

5 Times 5

One last time:
She was the maid-of-honor, I
Was organist.
She stopped to ask me
How I’d been since graduation, she
Was now engaged, the wedding in a year.

But I’d been sick, and she
Could tell, much thinner, covered up in clothes,
As summer wedding: no real time for layers.

“You don’t look well,” she said.
“I haven’t been.”
“Can I ask what’s wrong?”
“If they knew, then I would, too.”

Out on the deck, beside the bay,
Just minutes from the fishing bridge,
But I recall like yesterday
Her, wearing that red hat.

I got an invitation later, but
Poor health prevented me
From going to her wedding, or
To work, or anywhere at all.

There is no moral to this story:
She moved on, and so did I,
And slowly age will cover up
These times we shared,

For all they were

Were times

5 Times 4

It ended; she’d met someone else,
And I was not that broken up.
It turns out he was there, out at
Her parents’.

A neighbor, in her old hometown,
Marine now, tall and rangy guy —
And we were friends again,
The way that goes.

I’d see her: music theory class,
Her headphones on, as
Beautiful as ever, but,
I too had felt something lacking, it was weird.

I should have moped, and raged, and stormed;
Instead, I dated someone else,
Who I liked far, far better
Within weeks.

Relationships, like interviews
Turn into something, or they don’t.
This one lasted several months, then
Died its death, and

No one really mourned

5 Times 3

I walked into her parents’ house just
Two days after Christmas;
I’d made the strange four hour drive
To see her in that place —

Her parents were the sweetest, nicest people.
I was her “new boyfriend”
And I met fifty relatives, it felt like;
All these names and faces, it was quite bewildering.

And later, after dinner, we
Sat down beside the Christmas tree;
She told me I looked tired, and
We went up to a room

Where I would soon be sleeping.
We had never slept together;
I know it’s not that cool, but
It’s my truth, and so I tell it here.

Then when we kissed goodnight, I felt
A longing in her, something new;
I didn’t and I couldn’t guess
What she was thinking, but

I soon found out

5 Times 2

Walking by the river, down from campus, near
The aging fishing bridge, we stopped:
We hadn’t really talked yet much, and I
Was asking what her dreams were, and her plans —

She worked in radio, but not yet
How and where she planned on doing;
She was a writer, a speaker, a thinker,
Who wanted, not to conquer the world, but better it.

And as I listened, I could see
The future as she laid it out;
I probed a little: details, things
That, at that age, we talk about

And it was funny: life’s so real.
We’re all the same down underneath
The masks we wear: with hopes and fears
That differ in the details only

Yes, we’d worn masks, and hers was beauty;
Mine was weary misanthrophy
Shown false through the joy I showed
In simply making a new friend

5 Times 1

You tell me. I was nineteen,
And she was more than life itself:
I would have cut my arm off, given
All my limbs to science, just
To be beside her, everyday.

But this was not a forlorn hope:
It was fulfilled, and day on day
It just got better, better, like
A string of cool fall weather,
And it seemed my trenchant heart was set to soar.

But what — what did I know?
I was alternately, a lunatic,
And one supportive, not that bad a guy.
And who — just who was she?
What is this magic blinds us to
Exactly who the people we love are?
I know not, now, or then.

But love’s a good thing, even broken:
Even made of hope and sneakers,
Even as smile in the park
That burned my soul way into dark