All Of Us

Memories of a day at the beach.

All of us waded out up to our waists;
All of us, far from our troubles and hastes –
All of us stood with the sun shining down
In emerald-green water, few others around

All of us laughed as the waves undulated;
Nothing expected or anticipated –
None of us knowing, as we breathed that air;
This was the last time we all would be there –

All of us, now, are much fewer than then;
All of us boys are now some of us men –
None of us know, as our lives wander on,
When we’ll next look
And find someone
Is gone

The Best Day

Sometimes, our love is biggest when
Our dreams are very small;
When all we want’s some living space:
A bedroom, and a hall —

We find such satisfaction when
We’ve still no cause to boast,
‘Cause things and expectations aren’t
The stuff that matters most

The best day that I ever had
Was not on “News at Five” —
Just spent in simple gratitude
And glad to be

The Stone Pier

To where do lost desires disappear?
I have a theory, strange though it may sound:
They’re lost out on the red and white stone pier
Where memory’s white mists are all that’s found

Red Gwendolyn was once my every thought,
For heart’s desire kindled when we kissed;
But long ago, that faded into naught,
On out the pier, amidst the swirling mist

The First I Knew

I was amid my boyhood full
The first I knew of love –
And she, wrapped up in sadness
That I couldn’t understand

I yearned to try to help her, but
I didn’t know the way –
And love was neither
Passionate nor grand

But just a glow inside an ache
That longed to be expressed –
A girl in Christmas clothing, who
I wanted to see smile

The first I knew was only that
I had so much to learn –
And no amount of
Posturing or style

Would ever help me over
To the side where she was lost –
A violent home, I knew
In later years

I was amid my boyhood full
The first I knew of love –
And she was marked by pain
And full of tears

I see her in the twilight snow
The way I knew her then –
Although I’d no idea
What made her sad

The first she knew of love
Was that it always seem to hurt –
And that not every father
Is a dad

The Girl, The Surf, and Other Things

I always considered myself to have been a total disaster as far as dating went until I met my wife. Many of my ex’es however, have strangely fond memories of our time together. Not all, by any means: but a surprising number seem to have thought it time not entirely thrown away.

In a way, that shouldn’t surprise me, since most of the dating stories I have recalled or recounted over the years were positive ones. I know I dated some duds, and I know I was a dud to some of the people I dated, but the stories about dating I best remember were about good, nice experiences. In most things in life, the good and bad get all mixed up together, but sometimes, there is much more good than bad.

For instance…

I was nineteen years old, living in Florida, finishing my second year of college. Some old high school friends who then were at Auburn told me they had a friend they wanted me to meet. “She would be PERFECT for you,” they said. They brought her down during the Spring break when many of us would go back to our parents’ houses. So a bunch of us met up: my Auburn friend and his girlfriend, three other guys, this woman, and me. We started out going to a restaurant near the beach.

Well, my friends weren’t wrong, she did seem pretty cool to me: however, she seemed pretty cool to the other guys who were also there unattached. So, one by one, we would each talk to her, and I remember thinking as we walked out of the restaurant headed to a bar out on the beach that this was probably going to be another one of these occasions where this one of my friends, (we’ll call him “A”) would end up with the girl.

But that isn’t how it worked out.

While we were looking out of the bar window at the dark surf (you just see the white foam of the waves closest to the shore in the lights from the bar) she mentioned that she had always wanted to swim in Gulf of Mexico at night.  “Let’s go, then,” I said. “It’s still cold,” the other people chorused. I looked at her.

We went.

The others took their drinks onto the beach. She and I removed some (not all) of our clothes and got in the water. The Gulf of Mexico never gets terribly cold, but it was very bracing. She and I mostly just laughed at the silliness of it: bobbing up and down in the surf in the dark, trying to see each others eyes (it was a cloudy, moonless night). We were more-or-less invisible to our friends, but they could hear us laughing. Later, we found out that these same friends all thought we were doing something else out there.

We weren’t.

The decision got made thereafter (in the manner of inebriated people) to go to late-night miniature golfing. She and I sat on a bench, drying off with beach towels around us, while the others played mini-golf (also in the rather raucous manner of inebriated people). We sat and quietly talked for the forty minutes or so we were there. Since our two Universities were only about four hours apart, we left with the promise that I would come up and see her at school sometime soon.

And I did. But that would be another story, one that doesn’t have a happy ending. But about that night, there is a lot I remember:

I remember thinking she had an amazing smile.

I remember the shocked look on our friends faces that we would go swimming like we did (Floridians aren’t exactly Minnesotans when it comes to cold).

I remember sitting there at miniature golf, wishing the evening wouldn’t end.

I remember that I liked the sound of her voice, a musical kind of (cultured Tennessee) accent I had never heard before.

I remember us holding each other’s forearms in the surf for stability as we gently rode the waves up and down.

I remember the feeling I had getting back in my car, that I had someone to look forward to seeing.

I remember my friend “A” slapping me on the back and saying, “Good job, tiger.”

As it developed, that relationship went bad and it got bad, but it wasn’t bad, if you know I mean. Bad rarely cancels out good; it does sometimes, I realize.

That night was special to me. I don’t know if it will seem special to anyone reading this. But I liked her, and I had the nerve to go after her. And she chose me among that group of guys. Even if it was just for a night, and even if the night did not include any of the things people associate with adults dating. It was a night that mattered to me, and, in my twenties, those were few and far between.

Night Nurse

For eighteen weeks I lay in bed
And fervidly wished I was dead
Until, one night my eyes grew wide
To see this vision at my side

Hi, I’m Owen. Who are you?
Elizabeth, she said. I’m new.
I just moved here a week ago.
The night shift’s all they had. And so…

We chatted briefly in the dark
And as she left, I felt the spark
Of something – something like the dawn;
Of a desire to still go on.

She only worked the weekends, so
I had to wait a week to know
That I would see her face again.
A face I thought somehow a friend.

She came there, just as in my head.
Upon the edge of that old bed,
She sat and looked me in the eyes.
And me? I was in paradise.

The minutes we spoke went so fast.
And then she told me, at the last
That she would not be back, because
She’d gotten day work somewhere else.

I doubt now she remembers me,
But I recall her freckles, eyes —
A love not quite an hour long
A life sustaining exercise