scientists tell us that all water
is old water,
that there is no room for originality,
that everything is recycled.
the anguish of Achilles bleeding out
face-down in the Trojan dirt
mingles with that of a stockbroker caught
in the ebb and flow of the markets,
and what I am trying to say is that the tears
navigating south through the canyons on your face
may have once wet the cheeks
of Alexander the Great
for the same reason.
I think I may have mentioned before that I used to write poetry. In fact, for years, it was really what got me through school. At first, I liked it because, well, I could finish a poem. Then, all I felt, all the ugliness and misery, the longing and hope, I could write. I could express it all, like lancing a boil.
Some of it was your usual drech, but, as I practiced with my poetry muscles and fed it Shakespeare and Sexton and Robinson and Plath, I became better. My first actual publication was in a Vampire Magazine for poetry.
At college, we would read our poems at soirees run by one of my favorite faculty members (Hello, Phil Coleman) and people loved my work. They’d want copies. We’d all bond and talk about out work over coffee and cookies. I was sure I would be a poet for the rest of my life.
But I wasn’t. I think trying to settle into life, trying to become a good wife, then trying to become a good divorcee…you would think it would be fodder, that it would have fed my muse and let me churn out lots of confessionalist, painful, honest and maybe even awesome stuff. But my nerve endings were too seared for the words to come out, and eventually my poetry muscle atrophied as I turned to short stories and novels.
Every once in a great while, I’ll write a poem. But both of the ones I actually finished are more story than poem.
Then last week, I wrote a poem that was more about the soul than about the story.
And today, I wrote another. It was short, but I like short ones, you do not need a huge word count to try and capture a feeling or situation. I used to write them all the time, and I called them mnemonic devices. And today, I wrote a poem in an email, and I thought, “I need to call it something.”
And then I realized. Not only had I written a poem, I’d written a mnemonic device for the first time in 13, 14 years. It fit all the personal rules I had set up for this series of poems.
You probably think I’m silly and a little pretentious, but I am so happy I might just weep. To steal a line from Anne Sexton, the music is swimming back to me. Now to nurture that flame.
You are the hurricane,
The screaming banshee’s song,
He is the depths of the ocean,
Silent and unhearing.
He is the mountain,
Unyielding and steep.
You are the rain,
Forgotten in a day.
You are the violet
Hiding in the shadows,
He is the oak tree
Higher than the sun.
He is everything that is quiet,
Everything that is strong,
and unattainable, and beautiful, and wise.
And you, you are the mist…
You touch his face but briefly,
And then you are quickly burned away.
(Sometimes I feel like poetry is emotion…it should be raw and honest…though I think this one will need to be revisited, its flaws sanded off.)
I guess I owe you a debt of thanks,
You opened the door
And ushered me into a world I never knew.
It is a lovely place and even though
you will never be here to help furnish it,
to share the joy of it,
I thank you.
And this is good bye.
For all the times I saw you looking at me,
For all the times I tried to make you laugh.
For the way you spoke about your passions
And infected mine,
This is goodbye.
This is the way the world is:
We laugh at the wrong things,
Speak at the wrong times,
Move left when we should have moved right.
I waved at you in the distance
And it was goodbye.
For all the times I wondered
What you would think of something
And all the times others spoke of their lovers
And I wondered where you were.
For the unanswered emails
And the awkward pauses…
This is goodbye.
I imagine you now.
You tilt your head at me,
You ask me what I want.
Even now I can’t tell you,
I have no hope, no bridge
No heart to give you.
Even if you lived a mile down the road
You’d still be too far away.
So this is goodbye.
For all that I hope your dreams
Come true like magic
For all that I wish
That if we are never to touch our shadows will never cross again
For all that I need never to see you,
and have your laugh set fire to my resolve…
So let this stay goodbye.