November 28, 2014

(for d.l.)

We went into the alkaline hills
childless and arrogant
with chianti and tupperware
in running shoes and silk sweaters
— jeans against jumping chollo,
canvas jackets for the shadows’ chill.

Your invitation surprised me.
A fat envelope announcing
“You may already be a winner.”
I knew your reputation, Red:
“The editor’s ex-mistress”
according to the office gossip.

It was my first month working there.
I was the youngest in the newsroom.
And I was the most alone.
It was never what they might have thought.
Or what I wanted: You were kind.

I don’t much remember the others —
friends of yours, a married couple,
the goateed man an artist of some sort.
He talked to me of basketball
of Barkley and Thunder Dan
as our campfire and the darkness

conspired with the carbohydrates,
the wine, and the way you cut your eyes
(checking on my conversation )
to fix me in the amber glow
of that parody of family.
That is how I still remember you.

We were never lovers. You know that.
We just ran together for a while.
And if you ever thought I loved you —
well, I did, but not so much as
I feared some fragile crazy drama
softly blowing on my neck.

I was a coward, sure — a wormboy.
Maybe I was only acting.
I can’t swear that I was honest
with you always and forever.
I can’t swear I never cursed you
or that you ever felt a thing.

I just remember that Thanksgiving,
the way you laughed and flipped your hair.
How we talked of Raymond Chandler
and the mating rites of Mormons.
I told you all about the South
and the churches I had been in.

I was there for fourteen months.
A tour of duty in the badlands.
We lost touch after I moved on.
I heard it through the grapevine
you were excommunicated.
I didn’t realize that mattered.

Someone tracked me down in Arkansas
because they thought I ought to know
your disease had overtaken you.
You rented a cabin by the sea
where you thinned your blood with vodka
and cut your way out with a razor.

I do not presume I could have saved you.
My luck has held; I’ve given up old grievances.
I’ve forgotten my enemies’ names,
and learned to do the best I can
with this odd and wounded world
that, like me, cannot imagine it’s own dying.

1 Comment

  • Comment by dan byars — Dec 1,2014 at 1:23 pm

    Re: Thanksgiving
    Don’t know what that is all about, but very nicely done. Heartfelt, certainly.

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