Twelve out of My Things
Wait in Autumn
I sit and wait, the hours an endless chain,
The minutes sluggish and black against the day,
Like crows in wintry trees, their feathers splayed against the rain,
Stopped in flight, now still as rocks, their passage stayed.
The wait is long, and I a battered brittle leaf,
Blown weak and ragged in this autumn storm.
Let go, or hold, one fills the heart with pain and grief,
The other, harder still, unsuits the norm.
I cannot force the seasons speed,
Nor will the time to fly
The heart might now declare its need,
The days, they have their own design.
Like love, not planned nor plumbed, its course a maze,
These thoughts, no proper closure find, just other questions raised.
I wrote a sonnet once, it seems an age ago
I wanted lovely sentiment, my heart was full
I’d checked in Wordsworth, Auden, Yeats and more
They had their heads in clouds of stars or wandered o’er it all.
My own words, earthbound hens, just wouldn’t lift
They pecked and squatted fat upon the earth
While poets’ birds of love to heaven soared, mine left
Their hennish claws etched firmly in the dirt.
This love of ours, if such it be, behaves just as unwillingly
To soar and flutter skyward, to another plane,
Instead, your constant worries chain you here, won’t let you be
Unfettered, free, a dove, an eagle on the wing.
So we’ll stay, we two, here peck and scratch upon the ground
Glad to find some tiny kernel: love that someone’s left behind.
Young lovers are fine, they’ve got youth on their side
And you, the wisdom of age. Years don’t matter
You’re told, the wrinkles, just laugh lines, a smatter
Of spots from the sun, skin a bit tired from having a child.
Age doesn’t count, it is the inner values we see
Says youth, as you sit with your back to the window
Faced away from the lamp, dimmed, careful to show
Your face in repose, a hint of a smile, hoping that he
Will just focus on words. So worldly wise these days.
If you laugh, as you know, deep lines will appear
The shock of their depth and to know they are there,
With laughter gone, they will stay. Will surgery pay?
Making love is a challenge of strategy. Don’t stay on top.
Gravity does things to old skin. Makes it droop, pulls it down
Makes it sway. You have jowls now, and lines when you frown
It’ll have to be the bottom now, where you’re nicer facing up.
Today I heard that there’s a place somewhere in outer space
Where time’s reversed, a warp that turns the hours round
Makes them back up, to minutes, seconds, and then they’ve found
Broken eggs can heal again, an order there, what here decays.
Do you think I have enough miles to get there
On my Frequent Flyer’s card?
While you stay here, lose your hair,
Get old and wise, lined and spotted.
In years and years, a girl once more
I’ll leave my warp, come back to you
Admire your wisdom, but wonder too,
How an old man can be so besotted.
Your world is full of woe and sorrow.
The poor, unfed, unkind
Fill your mind and make it reel,
Helpless now to heal and yet tomorrow
You will find another cause
To fill your head with pain.
The ifs, ands, buts of life
Are thought about,
A circle without end or break
Go a mile, a foot, or stop, it matters not.
My heart meanwhile is paused,
It longs for you. I wait.
I know the choice is mine to make.
To give my love,
And giving it to you,
Might move your life, and mine,
An inch or two.
Have you come back yet once again to me?
Your head drooped and steps flagging on the way
A warrior wounded from the fray who now must see
The woman that was me, grown old and slightly frayed.
And I, I stroke your bent and needy head, intuit too
That would I say your youth was still intact
And true would challenge truth
Though saying so would stay our lives
On course, to follow now a long familiar route
A trammelled path of gracious lies.
What makes love fade, do you suppose?
An unheld fart, white socks, a curious taste in clothes?
A nose hair left too long? Or a bit of snot?
Some careless words? Or the sound of those?
Such little things as these,
Are they enough
To make us love or not?
Do we love someone because
He doesn’t fart, wears black socks, or wipes his nose?
Or do the things that once glowed through
Dim and blacken, mere shadows in the dark,
Small and shrunken in the glare
Of a nose hair over time,
Unseen in the cloud of a smelly sock?
Greybeard, my friend
We parry, we thrust
Touch with our thin, thin rapiers
Ever so carefully the skin that’s left free
Just ever so briefly,
Drawing a tiny drop of blood
Barely a scrape, not nearly a wound
But surprised, we draw back
Swords safe in our hilts, bow,
Smile, dab at our cuts,
“Oh, it’s nothing”
Would you care to dance?
We circle about, waltz a few beats
Rumba and cha cha, try the latest,
But fall back on boogie
At arms length, feet flashing
Whirling, twirling past each other
Our fingers still reaching
The last joint joining
We’re too fast for words
The words not coming
They can’t keep up
Our breath too short
To say out loud
And I know
Coming home today,
A long absence not truly felt,
The return with disinterest at best
To the absent artist who had left
The table set, arranged,
Flowers Japanese simple in the wine cooler
Red wine bottles from trips artfully placed,
A perfect composition of lines and swinging shadow.
My eye delighted, I stood and waited
For the wrenching in my heart
For the slight twinge, a pinch
Just any feeling of missing you.
What came was irritation at the cooler,
No vase at hand? Though we have so many.
Then growing anger at the pile of underwear
No hand to turn a knob, to push a button?
The stains unwiped upon the floor. No rag?
The egg-encrusted pan left in the sink,
Where is the man I loved?
Where is the man I love?
The voice not heard. His body elsewhere.
He leaves no flowers artfully arranged,
He writes no words, presented to surprise,
No funny pictures at breakfast,
No calls at lunch.
I lay my gifts before him, adore him,
Profess my love in an empty room
While you speak of yours to my emptiness too,
The emptiness between us solid,
Solid as wood.
Oh would I love you again.
I cleaned up my life today.
I tackled the major things first.
The pencils on my desk
Scattered willy-nilly in a mess
Over papers, books, odds and ends
I took each one in hand
Sharpened them singly to fine, fine
Points, and lined them up with care
Side by side in the drawer
In perfect quiet order.
Next I marched with purpose to the bath
And with an old toothbrush
And several rounded toothpicks
Scratched the scum from around the drain.
And with my index finger enshrouded
In a paper towel, I wiped
Each spitted toothpaste spot
From the mirror, leaving it
Sharply, reflectively blank.
Bending down on hands and knees
I found the debris
From our two heads
And picked each hair
From the floor
With painstaking care.
I took on the kitchen next
Moved the aging eggs
From their greying, brittle carton
To holders in the door.
Tidied up and put
My wineglass in the sink
Checked the fridge
For ice for drinks.
Slowing down somewhat
From the heat of action
I made my way to the bedroom
Where I found
Some socks of yours.
That I put then in a box
Alongside other things
That you’d forgotten.
Then sat down to rest.
I’m so proud
At how much I’ve done
To clean up my life
You’re hungry and your soft words
Define the menu.
A bit of this, a bit of that,
We’ll savor all the dishes,
A starter, main course, sweet and cheese,
A festive occasion this meal will be,
Long and slow, and conscious of each bit,
Some candlelight, soft music,
Serving hands bringing
Delights for me.
Ah, you conjure the sight, taste, smell
Of such a lovely meal.
My very senses reeling.
The real thing one
With this delicious fantasy.
Dinner is served!
Little time for words
The meal must be served.
No candlelight, music, wine or waiters.
Formica tables, and food on Melmac.
Let us not stand on ceremony.
Oh, it’s McDonald’s now?
No time to even sit
Must we drive by
Grab a bite
While we drive,
Never leaving the car.
A waste of time
When you’re famished?
Come and get it!
Soon the trough.
We, bent like pigs,
Snorting and grubbing
In the slop.
Grunting over the peels
And rinds left behind
Snuffling and grovelling
Glad for a scrap
Then rolling in the mud.
We should be in love.
After all, we’ve just eaten together,
I ordered, after careful study of the menu,
Something exotic, perhaps it was rash
To pick an odd dish in a country pub.
It came, you demanded a fork
To poke about in my delicious fish
Picking out the choicer bits,
With undesirable, undefinable things
I will not eat.
Then taking your own spit-covered fork
You mashed about my rice, making piles
And folds, then criticized the sauce
Which you left for me.
Finished now with your archeological dig
On my plate, you belched, turned round
The bill to me.
I should be in love.
We’ve just eaten together,
I’m so happy,
This is what I’m so happy about:
My lovely pond, the water soft and green
(So lovely, if not for the algae and their muck).
And the grasses and reeds, rustling calmly
(But scattering dirty little seeds all about)
My lawn, away from the noise of the city,
(But those weeds and slimy slugs do sadden me.)
My spacious house, the rugs and other precious things
(But where did all the dust come from? And bathtub rings?)
I love my life with all the people in it
They’re always welcome to come and stay
If only they could get along, be nice, not fight
And not always find a fly
in the ointment of my life.
Why can’t they all
Just be happy