I wanted to be more

I wanted to have an important life,
to help people, to change things,
to be part of the solution
and all that crap.
Somehow, I gave too much credence
to what other people thought
and spent years chasing routines,
self-discipline, appearances
I never actually examined.
If only I could let myself be ordinary.
If only I could not compare myself
to the handsome, fit, sexy men
I see all around me.
I’m too heavy, which leads to diabetes
and sleep apnea and sore muscles.
I could, but don’t, do yoga every day
or walk, or eat only healthy food.
Then I began loving you
and you told me I was enough
just how I am right now
and that I am enough
the way I was yesterday
and how I will be tomorrow.
You told me I am not what I accomplish.
You told me I am a kind person,
that I am sexy to you, that you
love being with me.
Keep saying that,
maybe someday I will believe you.


Needle tip under this stitch, pull yarn between
from behind, then needle tip pulling stitch off
onto the other needle, repeat
the slow repeating calms my mind
lets me sit in your presence without fluttering
this could go on forever
You look at me, your eyes beautiful and shining
you touch me on the back of my hand
peace flowing between us, impossible to encompass
outside, slow rain all day, grey and drab
we eat leftovers from my separate holiday table
last night shared a glass of old Tokay, sweet and tart
the memory of your skin against mine,
your arms around me, looking in my eyes,
this memory is a weekly stitch, added to the long slow
playing out of yarn, tying our lives together


one morning in my second year of teaching
from under the sports equipment trailer
a pale cream streak of fluff
shot out and climbed my leg
I put him in a box
he mewed all day non stop
I’m not sure what the children learned that day
except maybe to be kind to strays
II.  when you are part of a couple
and have pets
most of them are both of yours
Ditto was always mine alone
in older age he was diabetic
I gave him his insulin shot daily
he always turned his head back
to look at me
and opened his mouth
in a silent mew
III. dogs are not the only beings
to recognize the sound
of their master’s approach
Ditto would, if outside, come running
when I drove down the street
and so one day, when I was stressed
coming home to an abusive wife
none of which is an excuse
I was in my head and not paying attention
and pulled fast into the driveway
when I couldn’t find him a couple of hours later
I went outside and heard him mewing
from under the car
with a dislocated hip
for which there is no real recovery for felines
from there he declined quickly
I knew that night I had hit him coming home
and told no one for years
I have been haunted by shame and sorrow
this poem is my exorcism
Ditto died long before I left my marriage
for several years
there was a ghost cat
that felt like him jumping on the bed
every few nights
His ghost is gone, or maybe
he jumps on my ex-wife’s bed
emerging from the urn in her closet
that I gave her back when I left
I am only occasionally sorry
I did not fight her
for more money, or more accountability
but I miss my ghost cat
few people understand
when I say I regret not fighting
for my cat’s ashes
but those that do
have deep space in my heart

What more is there

She told me
she would stay with me.
I guess now
we don’t have anything else
to ever say
except the little things
that make each day one more
stretching out
to the end
where she still sits
beside me, taking my hand,
beyond speech.

Water Birds

I have had to pull back
from worrying about the world.
The things I can manage
are more intimate and modest:
who am I really, what do I do next.
I am not pretending
the world is not broken.
Water birds sit on the dam
that creates a flood-control lake;
drawing in my remembrances
opens calm where none was.
It’s been 4 years since
she last hurt me.
As I walk by, the birds, startled,
take to the air;
my memories swirl in like patterns ,
too complex to discern,
hinting at wholeness.


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.

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