My mind is your screened porch.
You sit in my imagination
on the daybed, reading.
The outside door inaudibly taps it’s frame.
Wind moves slowly in the trees,
almost overborne by freeway sounds.
My mind is your dining table.
You glance up at me,
unable to hold gaze for long.
The candles flicker, we taste our wine.
I feel heat pouring from you,
your desire, your reticence.
My mind is your bed.
I trace the hollow of your back
fingers brushing your skin.
Time slows, then resumes.
Outside this space, birds
sing, flutter, fly.
My mind is our space together.
Between us lies transient lily pads.
We walk across them, feet submerged,
almost falling into the pond.
Flowers open, close, we continue.
Everything stretches out ahead.
My mind can only barely contain
the thoughts of you, the touches of you,
the ways you open me, willing or not;
the impossible peace
being with you has created,
unexpected, cherished, my being remade.
My skin remembers yours
the way a puddle remembers the storm,
the way a shaving remembers the chisel,
rememberings that are not thoughts,
your back to my hand, your head to my shoulder.
My hand remembers yours
the way a pecan remembers the husk,
the way a chameleon remembers its color.
My lips remembers yours
the way an apple remembers the branch,
the way a cloud remembers the ocean,
the taste of you, sharp and sweet,
heels pressing my back.
My eyes remember yours
looking up through your hair, silver and purple,
the way an owl remembers the vole,
the way a sumac berry remembers its own tartness.
My heart remembers yours
the way a pinion remembers the wing,
the way this poem remembers, dimly,
your inconceivable wholeness.
Firsts stick in memory. My first kiss, Cynthia Sims, sitting on the piano bench in the house of my upbringing with all the adults in another room; the first mountain I climbed, Granite mountain, with my lover and about-to-be second wife, at the outset of 28 years filled first with love and companionship, only much later with terror, anguish, scars, recriminations; my first ever fish, caught at age 9, my first sex with Sharon at 18; and, on September 1st, 2020, in the middle night, within the bud of a soul-shattering year, while the long-late Townes sings in my ear 'If you needed me' at age almost 61, the first ever time someone, no, not just someone, my someone, lying in her bed a few miles away, me lying here in mine, said to me, in text on a dim phone screen, I adore you.
You have a difficult time looking at me; your past made certain of that, eye to eye too close to danger. I have to find signs in other places: your hand on mine in the night; the way you tremble when your desire rises; a text after hours inquiring about my day. Only at pillow distance do I get your eyes. Only when our skin connects do I get your heart. Only is enough.
I heard a song that wasn’t yet written,
tinkering in my head with harmonies
adjusting the rhythm of one spot
the thread of it wound through midair
smoke on a bright sunny day;
it would have gone on forever
but I couldn’t contain more
I saw it slide into your hearing
your face turning into a smile
I read a book that hadn’t yet been written
full of surprises and joy and sorrow;
somehow the author had, without my knowing,
taken the last few years of my life
and written them out in excruciating detail;
I had to close it, stop reading,
then I realized you had been reading it to me
your gentle voice turning each page, each day
I wrote a poem that hadn’t yet been written,
this poem, echoing me in ways I can’t follow;
even here, you are, as you are everywhere I look
or listen or read, as you are most completely
hidden away, a summer wildflower, in the inner pocket
of my heart that is always yours
Decades spent longing for another life
anything but the one I inhabited
wondering where the border could lie
how I could possibly cross
if and when I discovered it
one day I suddenly stood there, at the line
the signposts were her eyes and hands
at the last, all it took was to walk across
each new crossing comes
just as unexpectedly as the first
a tiny spiderweb between two blades
of grass as we sit talking
the twitching of the bluejay’s tail
perched in a branch overhead
the look in your eyes
when I tell you I love you
I remember how it felt to stand
on the other side, certain
change was impossible
now I make forays back
retrieving parts of me I left
Almost no one, even those I thought close
has followed my out of my old life.
For a while, that made me sad
so I stopped thinking about it
Then the people I missed became dead seedpods
floating away on the wind
when I brushed against the dandelion
I turn and a whole field of flowers
is stretched out
gold and blue
And you come behind me
your arms circling
your head against my shoulderblades
in the old country I had no love
now I have the love of three women
and friends more than that
I am bigger than I can understand;
each time, each time you touch me,
I finally recognize myself
You stand at the sink.
I’ve dropped off fresh bread;
I come up behind, close,
my arms around you,
one hand cupping your pussy
through your shorts;
you take my hands
move them to your nipples
your shirt is thin and soft
we have an afternoon date,
not soon enough
Your head is on my shoulder
you are deep in sleep breath rhythm
hair against my face.
Wind is whipping the branches
of the pecan tree outside my room,
dead pecans showering the patio slab.
My arm might be asleep,
or I might be walking, awake,
into an unknown room,
fear dropping away, your hand resting
on my chest; in my awake dream
the room is paneled in oiled pecan wood,
you sit at a table in the center
eyes shining, the dinner I cooked last night
still in front of you; everything an amalgamation
of what has been, what will be;
I stroke your hair and you murmur
sleep-words of care and freedom.
How I got here from where I was
how I was able to walk free of abuse
how I found you and her and her and him
is a mystery, a blessing, a grace.
I no longer find the Divine in everyday
except in the touch of your hands
the embrace of his arms
the feel of her lips on mine.
John Prine died today
and that was the last straw for me;
I’m watching videos of him
and crying: come on home, he sings
no you don’t have to be alone;
but I am alone, we go through days thinking
there’s always tomorrow, sliding into
the ease of open arms;
it’s all a lie we tell ourselves
because the truth of unknowing
is too terrifying to face daily
Tonight is a supermoon, silver fuzzed by clouds;
the world goes on, humans
are mostly inconsequential to the orbits of moons;
one lover at her home watching Moonstruck,
another outside looking at the moon
with me, but not with me;
the sweet sad songs run through
tears clean my eyes
an owl’s cry pins me into this moment
I want never again, though I know I will,
to displace now for tomorrow,
never again to dissociate
when a lover repeats a story,
never again to dismiss
the precious distinctness of each moment.
Supposedly a sword, my tongue
but really not even a dagger
it is best dipping into you
leaking pleasure, spiraling, twisting
so many places intersect:
my benchmark for a taco house
their lengua, soft and rich
gravy on my tongue;
my inability to persevere
in learning another tongue,
the one she desires to hear
soft, romantic, boleros in the air;
my tongue gliding along skin,
intent on tasting arousal;
my tongue tied, abashed
unable to express expansion;
too many tongues, not enough;
words plastering my ears back
and finally, silence, savoring
the end of all speech and sound,
as your tongue meets mine
hearts electrically connected
I can wait to get back to normal
normal was destroying the earth
normal was destroying my soul
in unnoticeable tiny bites
maybe what matters is now
the now of seeing you on screen
the now of knowing I am not alone,
that many beautiful humans care
outside my window in the morning
birds sing on, the same songs
they have had as long as memory
memory being so fickle anyway
soon enough we will again directly
see each other’s eyes and smile
I only hope we remember
the gift of quiet, the sound of breezes
When I was a pastor and sat with people
who were actively dying, like Anna,
by her hospital bed, holding her hand,
sometimes they, or their children,
usually a little timidly, as if it was something
they should know and had forgotten,
would ask me, what is heaven really like?
Now, I don’t personally think
heaven is a place, but a condition of existence
but that’s not the time or place for metaphysics,
so I would tell them, I don’t know,
but I can imagine, because if what I imagine
isn’t true, then it’s not really heaven
and I wouldn’t want to be there;
and I would tell them, you can also imagine
because your heaven will not be the same
as mine, but they will have in common
that all the goodness of our lives
will be distilled into one continuous infinite joy:
everyone I have ever loved will be there
close by, even the ones with whom
it ended badly, or who died before
I could ever tell them I loved them;
I’ll get to now. My parents will be there,
arms open, and we won’t ever have another fight
and they won’t ever again irritate the holy fuck out of me.
My brother will be there reminding me
to joke them if they can’t take a fuck.
Every cat I’ve ever known will be rubbing against my legs
my Dittocat climbing my leg as a little kitten
Cringy the stray dog licking my hand,
all my lovers surrounding me in their arms,
somehow all at once.
I don’t see any reason that we would see God
any more than we do now and it doesn’t matter
whether there even is a God or not
if I have all my feline and human loves again:
my heart will have no limit to how big it can be.
I will cry freely every time I see someone I have missed,
it will be a continual rediscovery
of everyone who ever passed through my life
and love will go on and on without end.
I realized, as I was sitting there,
holding Anna’s hand, that sometime
while I had been talking, she had stopped breathing
a beautiful smile on her face,
I want us all to hold closely,
in easy times and in difficult ones,
whatever we think about a divine or not,
that there is always a point to love,
always a reason to be profligate with it;
the promise, independent of any doctrine
but rooted in our bones and flesh,
in the knowledge we have
that we don’t know exactly how we acquired,
is that no love is ever lost or wasted.
I’ve said a lot of things that weren’t true.
It’s not that I was lying,
although there has been that at times.
It’s mostly that I didn’t know myself
so I said things that weren’t me.
I wanted someone to like me
so I spoke only the parts of me
that I thought would catch their fancy.
I wanted to feel like I mattered
so I left out the trivial
forgetting that life is lived in tiny bits:
the fluff left from brushing my lover’s hair,
the things in the kitchen drawer
that there aren’t quite enough of to categorize;
the feelings that pass through seeing a blue heron fly,
and how my energy surges when you touch my arm.
I desire to arrive at the end of my days;
no, wait, forget grand gestures, I desire
to arrive at the end of this day
a little richer from the tiny things:
sunlight coming through the spaces in my blinds,
remembering your lips on mine last night
and anticipating that again when next;
the pleasure of slowly, over the course of a day
preparing for dinner, for tomorrow’s work,
tiredness in my muscles, sweat and effort.
I want to finally be able, at the end of this day
to know my own truth fully enough to speak it.
You come over for our date, supper,
conversation, then you study,
about 10 I crept into the bed next to you,
your books on your lap, and I lay there
and watched you surreptitiously, the concentration
on your face not unlike how you look
when your arms are around me, and your legs.
My heart is overflowing looking at you
remembering a couple of days before that look.
I drift off to sleep.
About 11:45 you are putting your books away
and I wake up and remember we never had dessert,
and although I would like a different dessert,
my favorite thing to eat,
I thought once that if there was pussy-flavored ice cream,
or maybe seasoned salt, someone could make a fortune on that
but of course it’s not just the taste,
it’s also the scent of arousal, it’s the softness,
sounds and movements, my beard getting soaked;
well, I digress, this night you are as exhausted as me,
so I cut two pieces of the lemon-rosemary birthday cake
you brought me from your weekend in Austin,
where you had a second date with the man
you had been chatting with, which was fun and also
a little awkward, cause there were those first-time-sex things
he was perhaps embarrassed because he hasn’t contacted you again,
part of me was sad for you about that
and part of me was, like, fuck yes I’m your Daddy
don’t forget who takes care of you, Princess.
So we sit at my little white pine dining table that I need to build
a new top for, but I am loathe to because I have had it literally
for 42 years and even though my ex-wife tried to ruin it
by leaving it outside for months after I had left,
before I could come get the rest of my things,
the joints between boards in the top have opened up a little
and it’s not exactly flat, well, when I was 42
I was getting a little looser and less flat myself,
she thought she was getting back at me with this,
like, I’m not a woodworker who made it in the first place?
Still, this table is meaningful to me in ways a new one wouldn’t be.
I remember all the women and a few men who have sat with me,
eating love made visible in food I cooked, drinking wine, 42 years ago
Simi Rose’ of Cabernet Sauvignon, I thought I was so sophisticated
for having a “real” rose’, then later on German wines, Ausleses mostly,
because, let’s face it, I grew up Jewish on Mogen David
and sweet wines are where it’s at, even though now
I am more likely to get a good Madiera
when I go to dinner with my other partner,
or like last night, an oloroso sherry, deep brown and intense,
and now lately I am finally getting back into reds,
Rhones and Riojas, so I keep putting off remaking this table,
with all the memories that are embedded in the top
like the few remaining tiny pieces of glass that are also,
from where my ex threw my favorite deep cobalt blue
citrus reamer at me and it shattered on the table;
tiny fragments of blue glass still sometimes cut me slightly
when I clean, which is fitting, I am still cutting myself
against memories of the relationships that did not end well,
wishing that I had been a more compassionate person then,
but fuck, I had to live through hell to get to the beginnings of compassion.
We sit at that table, not really talking, there’s no need
your love is so obvious and I am enveloped in it
and all the little bits of glass embedded
in my skin are slowly being pulled out of me,
iron filings drawn to a magnet,
by the warmth you exude when you look at me,
tears welling up in my eyes;
my gratitude even more in that moment
that you did not know me in my asshole years,
when I was so self-unaware; all the others who have sat at this table,
the memories, mostly good, of who they were
and how I felt about them, cannot in this moment
even begin to approach what I have with you,
eating cake at midnight in our underwear.
Life routinely turns itself upside down:
You come into my bed, your head on my shoulder
opens long-unrehearsed paths, each time new,
my power flares and spreads out my extremities
sparking from my fingers into your palm,
tigers and lilies and the unknown becoming real,
my thoughts cannot keep up with sensations;
the certainty of my path I had 42 years ago
has given way to only a willingness to let go
of what might be and live in what actually is;
I know less and less each year;
but I do know some things:
on the other side of despair is clarity;
on the other side of heartbreak is joy.