I knew I had reached my personal height of maturity the day I was able to have a gut-busting laugh at myself. Before then, I was always annoyed when other people had to do it for me.
Old age walked up to me, shakily, apologetically took both my hands and said, "These days you don't range too far from your pillow. You sometimes are forgetful and on occasion lock in place, fermenting in thought. Words are frequently, under-or-over cooked. Sure, time is foreclosing on your potential, but it has also taught you a second language-- kindness."
Life might be said to be a folding together of memory, the present, and imagination and looking for gaps so you can step through, going both forward and back.
They are tearing down houses in the community. The sky itself looks wooden as each comes down belching dust. What was once safe harbor, maybe even pride, a monument to some effort, was forgotten, so forgot itself—slouched, lost paint and all provision, and now lay a fleur-de-lys of weathered wood, long petals of nail-pierced board, a broken ornament of someone’s life to be carried off, leaving a depression to foster grass (or maybe something bigger) as everything adheres voluntarily or involuntarily to the irreversible condition of existence—- beginning, middle.... END.
In the creakings and rumblings of any old house I can almost hear conversations, conversations that don’t concern me but are recognizable in their content, names being mentioned, issues being solved, differences voiced, sicknesses and deaths, and births and celebration. Matter-of-factly, they go on and on in the dim lamplight of the setting sun, especially in the kitchen, while my mind inserts the personality of my own past experiences, and I, though a little sad, feel a smile overtake my face.
Our house was softer when my father left (though I still loved him). Women have sweeter voices, sometimes whisper. The three of us made do, and each of us grew, each the flame of a newly lit candle no longer threatened by the wind.
(for Margie and her mother)
We walk together, two women, strangers with emotions heaving.
I do not remember you.
When you left, I was too young
to hold a realistic image.
For years, when others spoke of you,
I thought of only this:
long hair, a bitter taste of lipstick,
a dark windshield and wipers working through a heavy rain.
They called you "flashy."
Because I could not build your human face,
I thought you were a Buick or a summer storm.
Sometimes I laugh about that.
We walk through the wide mouth
of a day with trees stuck in it
like bad teeth, or good anchors. Something smokes in the secret
of the distance and puckers like a kiss, the kind you pay for at a carnival.
Yellow flowers watch the sun
and want to be suns.
A frog drops caution like a cloak
and detonates through the surface
of a farm pond
before a snake, a moment paused,
slides out upon the water.
Pain is only darkness, says a bite. Darkness, too, is intimacy.
Bushes hold castanets at ready
to signal celebration,
but the wind is tucked
under the white sheet
of a medicinal sky.
It seems everything needs time
to catch its breath.
We walk farther from a house
where I live alone.
I resent you but I want to know your story.
We walk with a hand that one might give the other sometimes brushing
a hand the other might accept.
It's early morning, and early yet.
Who knows how far this walk,
this day will take us.
They killed my old house. They brought in the big machines and pushed it down. True, it probably wasn't that much of a house. It didn't even fit its own foundation, I suspect like those of us who lived there: An old gambler before us.. THEN: My daughter Lori, born with markers and paint brushes in her hand, and so kind as to angle them to accommodate a very fast and easy birth. A man with a dark past who brightened our present and our future. Myself, struggling to be the kind of person a few kind souls already thought I was. Time changes all things, strengthens, weakens, increases value, diminishes it.....All by necessity, need, life ritual. But I am sad today. They killed my old house.