The box holding the sea

man and woman hugging each other
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Goodbye

was said in the early hours

all of us bleary eyed and trying

not to reveal how we really felt

for there is no way, no way at all

for true goodbyes.

His golden head and the missing cat

harbingers of things to come

none of us could fathom back then

for then he worked among flowers in Columbia Road

where for his labors, he fantasized a life of being

a garden designer of small, expensive, London flats

all walled in with Victorian crimp, longing to be rendered

Japanese, Drought-Resistant or Minimalist.

He slept with a girl called Candida, 25 years his senior

with a fat address book of horticultural leads

these things seemed then, necessary and normal

like the broken flowers fallen from their stem

at the end of a days market where people

trod over them when hours before

they emptied their purses to bloom.

He understood survival like a woman does

and for that reason and others, we were inseparable

if you’d asked me then, were it possible we’d be lost

to the other, I would have laughed

long and confidently — no bloody chance.

But time is a mortal coil of copper

winking in the sun among pomegranates and opal flowers

that render color to city lots, exhausted by their pilgrimage

and his white paint and his tall dreams, they were

like songs we play in the shower, or driving fast

moments of pleasure – – nothing more substantive.

Years later he has a house in Hastings

did I mention his parents were rich?

Built from drift wood and sea shells

I wondered what he thought, when he opened the white curtains

and stared at history stretching out like a quiver of arrows

unspent

or back at the girl who lay, tattooed and lean in his iron bed

which had once been mine and before me, my grandmothers.

What would she think? To know if she could

of strangers inhabiting her things like rude ghosts?

Would she say; You are the specters of my privacy

you sleep and fuck and dream on my mattress

who gave you the right? This reminds me of my

mother, who a few years ago declared; I won’t be buying anything

anymore, for who shall I give it to, and who will keep it when

I am gone? The thought haunted her far more than

the ghosts on my grandmothers bed, for she saw then

her own fragility and the absurdity of youth

decorating their lives with accoutrements as if they will

prevent a drowning or save them in a fire

when soon enough they feel heavy and unnecessary

to go through the ether with. Again, it was a

prescience, for she knew without saying, I would not

be in her life and she did not want her daughter

to inherit her bed or her clothes like a thief

who sells their organs on Sunday.

I understood her fear, I should have told her

but then I did not know she would be

leaving for good

I was fattened on the notion love stays and

what a pretty little fool I was.

When it comes my time, I will

create a life raft and put all my possessions

together in a purple kerchief, climb into the middle

and set off across sea to the isle of

forgotten or unwanted toys and there

my otter and my badger and my Kermit the Frog

and even dear old, much mussed penguin, they will live on that isle

with me until we retreat into the mist

to be truly absorbed

for no-one will be claiming my left overs

it will be as if I am

already absent.

Just like he is gone now, perhaps to Scandinavia, he was

learning the language like braille, touching the words

hoping they would sink in, and she would scold him

for coming home late smelling of cigarettes and remind him

in Scandinavia they do not smoke, so you need to quit now

why not get some ink instead and cover your body with

Viking symbols? He was

Scandinavian but only in his blood, the rest of it was

a good little English boy who didn’t know about

blow jobs or girls who wanted to fuck all night

still wearing their satin bra and smoking all

the while

until he began University and with the cliche

of all young men, he learned fast and began to

roll his own on the bronzed thigh of a girl who

dealt hashish and spoke with a pretend cockney

accent, we all know, those types they

usually borrow money from us when they

have more than most.

Sometimes I look for him, among the

river beds and the high lands where rabbits without

Myxomatosis ran plentiful and unafraid, unlike

Texas where there are snakes in grass especially after

rain and it rains

more than I cry these days for I am a form

of paper that does not require sustaining.

If he could see me now he would say; You

aged well, I am glad you never cut your hair, did you

see I went bald just like my dad? And look, is that

a new poem? Can I read it? Just as

we used to stay up late, typing on clapped out machines

without grace and laughing at

jokes made over smoke rings

in our underwear with the window open

and the midnight breeze

lulling.

I liked how he reminded me of

a gentle girl, for I knew no gentle girls

save my imagination. In my world girls

were cruel and they played favorites

like black jack and demanded their 80 percent

of the takings before giving a red cent.

I didn’t know then, girls would soften

become merciful or desperate, who can say?

But adopt some of his gentle ways, though

not one of them would be as romantic, I cannot

lie. What a shame a man isn’t enough

when in every way he is the very thing

except his masculinity which he cannot help

though it stinks like a wet dog

seeking shelter to shake it off.

I am glad she appreciated these things

and sad that I was unable

for our natures are shaped like spinning clay

no more under our control than the potters

wheel, once it has begun its harrowing ascent

I am after all, no crafts-worker, I can barely

sew buttons on my torn places.

But often I miss him with the piquance

of something that was real and gleaming

when youth was our high grass and snakes

did not exist much. I miss his gentle bestowing

and nobility, the way we would work off the other

like crafted pieces of the same wood, you could say

he was my best friend, until time made

strangers of us. After all, it wasn’t really

time as much as the ocean engulfing bridge-less

space and far flung conversations held over wire

did not transpose that immediacy or the smell

of spilled wine on paper, or his warm hand enfolding

mine in encouragement, for he always believed

when I was unable, a brother I hadn’t been

bequeathed in birth, we shared the same

eyes and tendency to cry when laughing hard

I even punched him once to see if

I would hurt and the bruise was a

flower forming in our shared heart.

He kept a cat of mine and had three of his own

but his Scandinavian girlfriend was allergic

to cat fur and second hand beds belonging to

my grandmother and before long both were

consigned to others I never met, and they

purchased IKEA or something modern to

fit their new life, where I had no place

but perhaps one day when his kids are older

one will be rooting through a box of shells

his father kept in a high shelf, looking maybe

for weed or diaries, he finds instead, photo of

us, we are so young, grinning all

fat cheeks and uncreased eyes, thinking of

a future that never came, how strange to imagine

then, when walking down the street to Cuba Libra

hand in hand, if they had said, you will

one day not know each other. How time bewitches

us with the certainty such things cannot, will not

happen, ever, oh foolish, foolish! He asks his

father; Whose the girl? Just for a moment

in another language, in another part of the

world, the grown-up him, stops, a lump in his throat

the size of my fist, and smiles, before

dismissing the memory and putting me

back among the shells and the dried smell

of sea water.

Goodbye

was said in the early hours

all of us bleary eyed and trying

not to reveal how we really felt

for there is no way, no way at all

for true goodbyes.

Sentiment

two women kissingPause

take note

before wishing adieu

consider those rushing years

how they go

girls in wide skirts with brown elbows

flaring in pluming circles, colors of earth and sky

feet tripping over movement, making hexagons of their desire

look back … oh look back

those long years that lay like the junk drawer in your house

untouched by thought or query

ransack shelves you have long forgotten

a hair band from her, 2006 I think, the texture of caught wisps changed so much.

Every room carries the souls of every person who inhabited them

a ring made of silver paper, from the inside of a cigarette box as we sat

in a dark bar on the edge of town, knocking back whiskey and birch

playing footsie beneath sticky tables, with shoes off, bare toes searching

photos of people lost, people found, people who no longer exist lost in circles

the force of life remains inexplicable.

Times past, fast and hot like racing cars revving their engines as soon as dusk

settles like a woman’s gloves on the sorrowful face of the world

for years you rushed around, paying no heed to silent pieces of life you accumulated

halogen lamps stand like cupie dolls with radiant faces

stuffing them in boxes, tying with ribbons, preserving for what day?

There’s lavender from my grandmothers farm, her old best silver spoon, a dog

tag from my father’s first, the smell of grass and good doggie sweat still adheres

an old stone mill and my cousins would drink from tadpole ridden water

and I am the one who grew up to outlast, everyone.

All the people in this photo are gone, still they remain on unsettled periphery

what would they tell me? Get rid of her, she chokes you like

late wine that has corked, she takes and gives nothing back but ingratitude

it’s never enough, it will never be enough, you are not seeing clearly

and the memories of velvet as soft as snow haunt like miniature heart

attacks caught in disused webs.

in jars there are stars and in skies there are words, for everything existing here

is upside down

I write about you until my fingers bruise, I remember the little things

you long cast aside as of no use, like me, like us, like this, once and lost

your memory is a cruel sieve with no regard for history or effort

only the smelt of immediacy and present day full exposure

I have long been your past, just as we have

become junk in drawers, lost to further inspection

when words run dry and even letters stay unopened

your cough sweets, when you ran a high fever and I made soup

the times I took, the hours, the moments,

caught in nets in your mind, to be drowned even deeper

crabbing pots without capture, no dinner tonight you sustain

yourself on bitterness and temerity.

When i am gone, tied in forgetfulnesses bow, you will not recollect

the cards I hand made, how I stitched your favorite sweater

three times till the moths had their eventual dinner

when you were lonely, the words we spoke in the dark

those comforts that are lost in the past,  never to be unearthed

I built a life time and you forgot the shopping list

and driving into the sun, lost your desire for remembering.

Here in this place, I keep the momentos of lost walks

the day you whispered to me, I was the one, how we

climbed and fell together, like gradual waterfall

here is the photo of us laughing

here is a snapshot of us ending

still there are always rubber bands and pins at the bottom of a drawer

to snap and prick you back, to caring about something other than yourself

where we lay beneath cherry blossom, because you said you always wanted

to eat sandwiches and drink wine beneath Spring trees

my hair growing below my waist, the pizza they gave us

when one was not enough, drinking coffee on tindered street

wishing we could still smoke, being well behaved, havoc resting

the copper light of that room, how it smelt of patchouli and wine

even as we left.

I still fit into those days

they fit me like old clothes made new with sentiment’s stitch

climbing from the silence of today into

a divining bell and sinking beneath perpetual hurt

till music swells and covers my consciousness with

buttered fingers

they slip into me as you dove

deep and never released

your breath, my swimmer, my underwater love.

I still see you there

telling me to trust, when I am walking on our ash

here the trees are taller than those we grew to

know and there are no cactus or flowers of the desert

to go with that favorite tune.

I climb California hills with Barney and he hands me

a piece of advice,  a white flag

don’t look back, do what it takes

life is an arrow, cast it wide, cast it careful.

Pink is a damn sunrise slung over beautiful shoulders

running rest of the way home, past the old mental hospital

where secrets are wrapped in files never read, like mosquito nets in Alaska

I go back to my Canadian house and the closed feel of doors

watch snow fall and think of tattoos

over 30 and how time is like unconsciousness

you feel it in another part of you

searching for a way to unite the two.

Slow jazz playing on a malnutritioned needle

here the fair comes promptly in June

they all rush outdoors, so grateful for sun

I tell them, where I came from it never relented.

And I wonder, are you still there? Waiting for me

on the one day of rain? As we kissed goodbye

beneath lampposts, driving separately off, blind in downpour

each aware of time ticking further apart

long arms flung like an acrobat in green ocean

flips ever more easily, than we on land

shall inherit perhaps these fitful musings

of things left behind

unsaid

undone

withdrawn.

The fence between us

you hammered in

you uncoiled and made

tall and hard to

climb.