Oh to be nimble, unfettered and young–– heedless, with yesterday’s breath on my tongue. Scuffed shoes unpolished and hair all awry, with nary a reason for white shirt or tie.
Chucking small stones, shooting rubber bands. Gritty black fingernails, scandalous hands sporting sand from the sandbox or silky black loam from digging for earthworms or sliding on home.
I’d like to be lithesome and agile and spry–– a long life in front of me before I die; but my years are numbered, my life’s nearly over. Gone is my past as a rambler and rover.
I sit on my porch and watch younger men take off for those places I’ve already been; knowing my wild years are too far behind me. I’m an Energizer bunny with no one to wind me.
Maddeningly, although I know I still dream, I forget them the moment my eyes open. Instead, I usually wake up with the first line of a poem on my mind. In this case, I used it as the second line of this morning’s poem.
You flavor my memory with common tastes: Spam and corned beef hash.
You wanted to be the common man, but you were anything but.
The bold aggression and the subtle feminine sweep of what you formed— beautiful. Your hands never clumsy as they sculpted wood and stone. Metal bent and melted into beauty at your touch,
and colors lifted the wings you gave them.
I floated, also–– too independent to be formed by you, but still uplifted that a man like you could love me. It validated something in me—those hard choices I had made
because I listened to something vivid in myself I had not yet found a name for.
Dreams taught me. And synchronicity. I had always wanted to be a wanderer—to try to quench those yearnings that had haunted my daydreams since I was a child. I cut the ties that bound and wandered West to find you—stable man pinned by your wings to obligation all your life. Instead of pinning me down, you wandered with me. The gypsy life of making and selling art. The easy camaraderie of that circus life. The vans and wagons circling every weekend in a different convention center parking lot.
Nights pulled into the woods or by the ocean.
Short nights in transit, parked in neighborhoods where we’d be gone by six.
The song of tires on the road, Dan Bern and Chris Smither. Books on tape.
Pulling quickly off the road to lug a dead tree or a well-formed boulder into the van
or to engineer its route up to the roof,
so we returned home as heavily laden as we had departed—
bowed under by the fresh makings of art.
The texture of our home life was silver dust and wood curls. Its sounds were the stone saw and the drills and polisher. The heat of the kiln hours after it had lost its art. The fine storm spray of the sandblaster, the whine of drills and whirling dervish of the lathe. The smell of resin, redwood, stone dust, paint. The sharp bite of metal. The warm bread smell of cooling fired clay. Every bit of my life was flavored by what you loved––what I loved, too, our interests merging so completely that for awhile
we had no separate lives, but one life welded end-to-end. These remembraces are not organized or filed. They flutter into my mind like hidden lists blown off tall shelves. That life now a scrapbook of the past with certain photos plucked out to be tucked under bedroom mirror rims or carried in wallets.
Snap. You put yourself into my mind. Snap. Another memory follows, and I am an old woman replaying her life. Snap. The creak of the tortilla machine across the street in the early hours. The loud rush of the surf, the rattling startup of a motorcycle. The raspberry seed between my teeth, the scent of the dog’s bath still on my hands, sand gritting the sheets and art projects taking over every surface. Snap. I am me, looking for the next adventure.
Below photos snapped a few minutes ago. Proof of the tale. New projects. Click on first photo to enlarge and see all photos.
How can I sort the world out to when I was only ten?
I’ve taken my mind back there and come back here again.
Eleven I remember, and I also recall nine,
Grades one through four and six through twelve, I remember fine.
Why can’t I remember that year when I was ten?
I opened up an album to take me back again.
I see that I was chubby and had unfortunate hair.
Maybe that is reason enough to keep me out of there.
To live just in the present can block a lot of pain.
Sunny days are better without memories of rain.
Perhaps this digging in the past is something to be curbed,
and certain memories are not meant to be disturbed.
Whatever blocked my fifth year out will be allowed to die.
There’s wisdom in the adage to just let sleeping dogs lie.
I cannot face the infinite— that colossal haunted house— too many rooms seemingly empty that teem with invisible somethings that I can’t comprehend. How could I find myself in such vastness? What in those giant corridors knows I exist? Ego, finally, my undoing, as I fear becoming part of what I find impossible to grasp.
Everything I am yearns towards the specific— fine detail being more or less how I have spent my life. How can such a life be reconciled with the infinite? Everything cycling up and up from nothing and, we fear, back down again. He who says that nature is not ironic lies or simply refuses to face the truth.
It is a cruel infinity that has included such a tiny space for me.
How cruel of life at end of day
that all of us should fade away,
one head going hoary white,
ready to give up the fight
while all around it, fresher shoots
sturdier and less hirsute
push upward in the dawning morn,
the meadow to freshly adorn.
Careful near the pool edge, careful down the stair.
“Hurry” is disaster’s brand new nom de guerre.
All the things that in the past you might easily dare
are potential dangers hanging in the air;
so don’t stand on a ladder, or even worse, a chair.
It’s different being single than when you were a pair,
for there is no one with you to see how you might fare.
When coming from the pool, be sure the shoes you wear
do not slip upon the tile–this is your worst nightmare.
If your feet are wet and if they’re also bare,
when you plug in your curling rod, I hope that you take care.
Although I know you’ve always been nimble as a hare,
things all change with age. I say this ’cause I care.
Bones become more breakable and muscles tend to tear,
so please take proper care, dear, in your single lair.
At seventy those second chances tend to be more rare.