{ remarkable vacation }

the day was bright and bleached and we
had traipsed across some parking lots:
a melon scent was in the air,
or maybe it was apricots —

a breeze blew off the edge of sun,
and made the swelter bearable,
and you were wearing white and gold:
some fabric barely wearable

back to the rented cottage there,
the door had hardly shut behind
when we were interlocked and laced
and free of care and guilt and mind

we moved the heat indoors to see
how long a recreation
could two whole people make of one
remarkable
vacation

In Youth

You asked me once, when we were young,
If love was made to last.
I said I had no way to know:
“The future’s not the past.”
    And on a bridge, beside a pond,
    We sat there, full in youth,
    And wanted nothing comforting
    But truth.

It wasn’t many years before
You found yourself a place,
And built a home and family,
And filled it up with grace.
    For youthful as were all your ways,
    You lived true to your feelings,
    And marked your life with love in all
    Your dealings —

But I went on to just go off.
My heart and mind betrayed me.
I traveled through the manic lands,
For no one could dissuade me.
    Though youngish in experience,
    I felt old in my pain,
    And strove for nothing; all of it
    Seemed vain.

But in those last cold days of youth,
I still remembered us,
And saw you’d made another choice,
Got on a different bus.
    And so I traveled back in time,
    And stood beside this pond,
    To try to look around, and see
    Beyond —

For “young” is everything at once,
And little in return;
There’s cold and empty nights for those
Who always blaze, and burn.
    But honesty’s its own reward.
    In truth, you’d chosen wisely,
    And how my life had gone could not
    Surprise me…

You asked me once, when we were young,
If love was made to last.
A thing you answered for yourself:
“Depends on how it’s cast.
    For love’s a sturdy building
    If we’re careful in its making,
    A thing that starts and ends with
    Undertaking.”

Memories from The Suicide Crisis Line

…People always make fun of me, she said,
Kids in school said I was retarded

[oh, girl, i know i was there, i never spoke up for you i’m so sorry]

No boy has ever loved me, she said;
I don’t even have real friends –
Well, I have one.
My mom got me a spa membership, and
I made one friend, a woman at the spa

So, you’ve made a friend?
That’s good, I said,
Tell me about her

She’s older.
Her name is Daisy – she’s a teacher —

[my mom has made friends with her… of course.]

So you talk when you’re at the spa?

Yes, she also brought over
An extra workout mat I can use at home –
She’s really nice —

How’s work been going?

It’s lonely —
College cafeteria work – kids my age, but
They don’t even look at me

[i’m going to talk to you when i see you tomorrow! i will.]

Have you had any more thoughts about suicide this week?

Yes –
She said —

You have a lot to live for – you’re doing great…

Roger? — you sound kind of sad yourself,
The last few times we’ve talked.
Are you okay?

[i’m great, except i’ve hated myself from the moment i realized who you were…]

Roger?

Oh, no, I’m fine Kathy. I just
Wish sometimes I could help you more.

You all are there to talk to.
That means everything to someone like me —
Well —
I’m gonna go now…
Bye

[my god, i despise myself right now]

The Life I Could Have Had

A true story.

In my mid-twenties
I applied to and was accepted
Into the Princeton graduate / post-graduate program
In Philosophy

I had been accepted by two of the three other places I applied

I was maybe five months from leaving my Civil Service job
As a mathematician
Trying to figure out how to stretch the money I had saved
Hoping to talk my way into an assistanceship

It was Spring
One of my best friend’s weddings was coming up in a couple weeks
I played basketball with some friends on a Sunday
When I went home, I crashed on the bed
When I woke up, it was Monday evening
And I was on the floor

I got up
Fed my cat
Left a message on my boss’s phone at work
Went back to bed

Woke up, and it was Wednesday
Fed the cat again
Noticed I had bruises all over my body
Went back to bed

Woke up on Friday morning
Fed the cat
Got dressed for work
Showed up right at lunchtime
Looking like death
Some co-worker friends asked me
To come to lunch with them

During lunch
I had a massive seizure
I had been having them for days
And didn’t know it

I missed my friend’s wedding
I was in and out of the hospital for two years
I lost all my money
I lost that chance at graduate school
But, even at death’s door
I made sure my cat kept getting fed

I am an epileptic
I gradually carved out a life
Through grace
Rebuilding my body
Recovering from years of depression

I finally went to graduate school
But it was nowhere prestigious
And it was in Statistics, not Philosophy
But I used that to become an actuary

I have a wonderful job
I work at a place that genuinely cares
About its customers
And employees
And the community at large
As well as shareholders

So, I missed out on my dream
Through illness, depression, near-suicide

But recovered to one day
Fall in love
Have a family
Find a rewarding career

And write about it

But

I would still rather not have seizures


 

(“The Life I Could Have Had” – 3/26/2015)

Hurricane Eloise (September 1975)

When I was thirteen years old,
My parents woke us up early in the morning
To tell us that a hurricane
Had changed direction, and
Was now coming our way

We huddled in the center of the house
And watched a pine tree bend
Directly over us, as
The very strong winds blew trees
Over and by
Our Florida home

Eventually, the storm blew over, but
Not before largely destroying
Half of the trees
In our yard

We had flashlights,
Batteries,
Water,
Canned and bagged foods —
Which turned out well,
Since the power was out
For several days after

Later that day,
I walked down the hill
Towards the bayou,
And I saw the park I regularly played at
Underwater

Newspaper pictures a day or so later
Showed the destruction at the beach

Being thirteen years old,
I had my priorities:
Within a day, I was
Riding my bike to various convenience stores,
Looking for the latest issue

Which actually still came,
As ridiculously post-dated as ever —

The unimaginable power of nature
Took second place
To the fantasy life of
A thirteen year old boy

batman_274

Grandmother / Mother

A true story.

her thread came loose —

i was but a boy
maybe eight years old
and she

and she kept repeating herself —

she could not remember
what she’d just told us
and it frightened me

like i’d landed in a madhouse —

not my grandmother’s
new condo
where we came to visit

my mother talked to me in the car —

what’s wrong with grandma?

She is going through [what was then usually called] senility
She loses her sense of where she is, and
Time goes back and forth
In her head

but why?

It’s something that sometimes happens…
‘Senility’ is God’s way of reminding us that…
That the mind and the soul
Are not the same thing

will she get better?

No, son, she won’t.
Her mind will gradually unravel
Until she’s ready

ready for what?

To be free

Adult Thoughts from Twenty-Four Year Old Me

[From a journal I used to keep –]

… I see you every day and I dream about you – my body produces this ridiculous overabundance of sperm cells, cells I wish I could leave inside you, feeling you, tasting you – it is a madness, and obsession, it follows me everywhere and haunts my every waking moment – but I can’t make you feel it, you don’t feel it, your eyes wander elsewhere, and my whole mind goes numb with rejection – until tonight, when I’ll see you again, for even my dreams conspire against me, and you will be there, and you will give yourself to me, and I will know what I will never know what I will never know what I can never know …