Sometimes, only through the lens of time, can you realize that you might have had your priorities in the wrong order…
I was married
Fill-in-the-blank years ago
It was cloudy
Fill-in-the-blank years ago
I was all worry and upset
We didn’t order a tent
The guests will get wet
The day will be ruined
Five years later
It was over
I woke up this morning
And listened to the
thwack and splash of rain
on all the leaves.
The birds were having a fine time
For Kate, a fellow jewel lover…
On the beach, I used to find bits of glass so soft and rounded I didn’t believe they were glass. They were jewels. The blue ones were rare and expensive sapphires. Clear ones were diamonds. Green were emeralds. Even the commonplace brown was amber. I collected each gem and put them in a glass jar. My winter treasures.
I didn’t know where these jewels came from. I wasn’t thinking of fisherman with their Pabst Blue Ribbon Beers or Molson Ales on the rolling seas. I couldn’t imagine that my precious sapphires came milk of magnesia bottles meant to settle a sea-sick stomach. I didn’t know how the ocean lurched and leaned and made bottles slips from wet hands, then tumbled the bits across the ocean floor, smoothing the sharp edges until they washed up on the beach and were buried in sand.
In the winter, I spread the treasure on my bed and put each of the gems in my mouth, one by one, so I can taste the salt and the sun and the ocean.
When we fall in love, it feels singular, like we have discovered an unknown island in the vast Pacific Ocean. And it is. Sort of. And then the couple has to traverse the mundane routes of their lives and rekindle the remnants of their paradisal beginnings. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, well…this poem…
I huddle over the scraps of us
The dim memory of your hand in mine
Or was it mine in yours
Are they dim, really?
They seem to blare like neon cobwebs in
Each dark turn of my days
Oh, for crying out loud
What dumb pairings
Who hasn’t been dumped
Or done the dumping
I forage for new words
To describe my voyage
My trundling through the us of us-ness
It has to be unique
The most one and only event ever
in the epic feature of love.
It has to be.
It is not one more break-up in the scrap heap
Of hot rods and station wagons and that maroon thunderbird
We rented one time
Years ago, I sponsored a Vietnamese refugee to this country. This prose poem is a snapshot of our first night together.
SAME SAME BUT DIFFERENT
Her full name is Ho Tuyet Mai. It means ‘Falling Snow.” I didn’t know it snowed in Vietnam. She says to call her Mai. She wants rice. That much I understand. I am going to cook it, but she keeps grabbing the pot out of my hand. And the bag of rice. And stepping to the sink. Okay. Okay. She will make the rice. First she pours the rice in the pot. Then she runs water into the pot and stirs the rice with her hands, washing the little white nuggets. She drains the water. She repeats this process three times. All the while, she looks at me and smiles. Over and over, she says, “Same. Same. But different. Rice. Same. Same. But different.” Yes, it is rice. Yes, it is the food she ate on the other side of the world but now she is in Boston making a different pot of rice. No family. No people she knows. No one. Just this blond American with her pot and her rice and the running water and a stove. An hour later. She scoops a heaping pile of rice into two bowls. It is mushier than what I would have made. I don’t know if this batch of rice is similar to what she made in Saigon. All I know is it’s “Same. Same. But different.”
I think this poem happened on retreat at Kindling Words West. We were sitting around talking about the first trees that we climbed.
My first was a Maple
At the corner of Dickinson Place and Woodland Road
I didn’t plan to climb it.
I didn’t even dream about it
Or long for it.
I was content to stretch up
And hang from the lowest branch
Fingers clamped round the rough wood
My feet dangling, barely touching the ground.
Swinging back and forth
Back and forth
Watching cars go by
At ease in this one feat.
Then one day
I grabbed and pulled and
looped and shimmied and ooched
my legs around that lowest branch
Til my body was on top of that very branch.
Then I went
Higher and higher and higher.
It’s easy once you’re in.
It practically asks you to go up and up and up
Handhold foothold up up up
A dance. A dance. A dance.
Inside the flickering green light.
Inside the golden yellow light.
Inside and invisible
A perfect place to fledge.