December 02, 2006

Time Carried Them Back

A dismal little piece I wrote last February. Today, something I wanted to share with a friend. It gets better. It does.

Time Carried Them Back

Way Back When

My parents looked Dean in the eye
Cornered him after I ran away the second time
Now, when they could no longer bring me back
with guilt
or the hope of salvation
“Tell us where she is.
You’re 18 now
and we could put you in jail.”

Dean squirmed
where they had him standing
as they brought me out
and I didn’t know about the blackmail
Infuriated by handcuffs and the back of a squad car
I looked at him with every ounce of hate I had

And I left them all for good the next time

Just Last Year

Jason said, “No,
we shouldn’t do that.
Not until
we’re in our 50s,
or maybe 60s.”
And I paused as it hit me
Time had carried us apart

There’s nothing for it now
but to split our DVD collection
To leave his furniture behind
when I move to school

Grandma Kat tells me
“When one door closes,
another opens.”
It’s cliché, but
she listens to me cry
and makes me believe
that it will all work out

I didn’t meet her until I was 20
Estranged
is the term for us,
our family,
one generation from another
Now for the first time
we feel related

New Town

The sky is blue, blue, blue here
when it isn’t cloudy
Blue like the movies and stories
Not murky like the sky Back East
A silty pond waiting
to be stirred by thunder storms
that ache to pry back the roof and come in
Not big like the Montana sky
That monument dome
held up by cloud mountains
that loom as if they could crush you
like a frog on the highway
Not a flat sheet of mirage water
like the desert sky over California
No

The Northwest sky
hangs low on the trees
Peering down through evergreen boughs,
a canopy of lushly colored tissue

And I would write about it
if the years had not leached the songs away,
down the drains of parking lots
Squirreled them off
through office cubicles
Far and gone
with all the pennies
safety pins
family
and discarded hobbies

Winter Holiday

I got an email from Dean
right out of the ether,
where everything vanishes from sight
and the sense of presence
We talk on the phone,
joking like we were never away,
recriminations lost and done with
I guess I could visit
on the way to see Kat for Christmas
And maybe,
maybe Mom and Dad,
my sisters,
perhaps they’d like to have a family dinner
It’s been a very long time,
after all

After Dinner

Dean, it was great
seeing them again, and my sisters
weren’t all spines and sarcasm like before
We laughed together at the table,
spent half an hour at raucous truffle splitting
to share around the dessert,
Grandma Agatha’s gift of chocolates
And in cleaning up,
showing me the remodeling
my sisters and I cried on each other’s shoulders
for the years of lost company
and things said in anger
My mother told me,
“It isn’t that I don’t love you,
but that I’m selfish and I want you with me
for eternity.
In God’s kingdom.”
I don’t believe anymore today
than when I left,
but it was easy,
and so true
to tell her that it was
the most loving thing anyone had ever said to me
And she gave me a watery smile,
held me close like she used to.

“I’m glad,” he said.
“I’m happy for you,
I know how hard these years must have been.”
And we kissed each other there on the couch
as if we could burn each other to charcoal crumbs,
our bodies turning to serpents
in each other’s hands

Her Disclosure To Him

The bubble took my good job
and I have new student loans
at 30
Plastic furniture
Bad knees
I feel like a teenager again
Except I have a car
and better skin
Also,
I might travel or take off suddenly
For politics
for work or a conference
and it would just have to be all right

His Disclosure To Her

“I’m a grease monkey;
crude and offensive.
I never went to college,
though I could probably find work anywhere,
and don’t talk formal
like you’ve done since I knew you in high school.
Even when you’re making fun
or swearing.
I hate cold weather and rain;
it's so boring staying in.
I like to listen to you and
like that you care, but
I don’t follow politics,
these things you talk about.”

Teasing

“What are you wearing?”
And I say
2 pairs of socks, long underwear, jeans, a sweater …
“You’re no fun.”
And I reply
I thought we had discussed this already
how I’m no fun
“Yes, yes we did.”

And the next day
he emails the weather report
from his Los Angeles suburb
where it’s 78º Fahrenheit
In January
Tease, I call him later
He asks,
“So what are you wearing right now?”
And I say it’s warmer today, so
a pair of socks, jeans …
“Only one pair of socks?
Ooh, baby!”

But seriously, do we know
what we’re doing here?

“No. We’ll just have to let time do its work.”

Goodbye, Mrs. Kat

I’m driving when I get the call,
pull over before I become a hazard,
break down for half an hour at the nearest offramp

I give my sister the news
from the visitors’ lot at Fort Lewis
because she’s the one I was asked to tell
Mom couldn’t hear my weekly reports anymore
as the tumor stole her mother’s breath
There was no last call,
no dramatic reconciliation
before she realized that even to the bitter end,
40 years of silence would not be healed

I get back on the freeway
to Jordan’s house
because I promised a morning ride to the airport
It isn’t any trouble,
it isn’t like I want to be alone tonight
And Jordan says,
“I hope she’s at peace.”
And I say, I don’t
She was at peace in her retirement community
with its gates and guards,
with its ‘no one under 55 for more than 2 months’ policy,
in a quiet house with my Aunt and Uncle and her husband of 50 years
She was at peace with trips to the store,
the post office and the occasional cruise

She was bored too,
lonely for friends long passed
or lost in the fog of age
She was horrified
by this fast, new world
and the wild images it threw before her
Remembering the golden times
of youth
Forgetting near starving
during the Depression
Forgetting how there was no help
when her husband left her with 3 children
after the War
She remembered the golden times
that might never have been,
because it seemed she felt passed by and worn out,
as if there were no place for her anymore
in this machine landscape

Not that I blame her for that,
because sometimes I feel the same way
I have already had jobs that didn’t exist when I was born
Jobs with a brief flash of prestige and importance,
but now made of such commonplace tasks
that they no longer have their own title
If I were that much older,
if all the artists I enjoyed had stopped singing
and all the actors I liked had passed away,
if my childhood memories sounded like fiction
to all the new people,
it would be harder to take enough comfort from the world
to make up for its sharpness

So I hope that wherever she is,
she isn’t at peace
I hope she’s getting ready for a grand adventure
That she’ll get to do the things she encouraged me to do,
to feel out a place for herself
that offers a hope of meaning again

“Go do what you want
and don’t let anyone stop you,”
she told me
Just the weekend before she died
“Go on with your studies
and the bright future you have.
I’m proud of you
and I love you.”
So you can see
what kind of life she wanted for me
and what her hopes were;
that I would sing out
in whatever key I pleased,
not have her regrets,
her chains
So I wish for her to have those chances, too
If such things are possible,
and you never know

Next Weekend

I already have the tickets to visit,
a week and a day late,
though the doctors said there were still a few months left
Reprising the holiday circuit of visitation
through familiar territory
made a bit more empty
One fewer of the people I belong to
with our quirks, compulsions,
mulishness,
long complaints and shared jokes

But I won’t be seeing Dean
He wrote,
“My life is all here and it hurts that you’re so far away.
Maybe it’s worse to be apart
than to be alone.
I was fooling myself.”
Yeah, well,
I thought that was probably the way this would go

Because love isn’t enough,
not in real life
It isn’t enough to hold people together,
to provide a happy ending
from the moment you declare your feelings
Other things have to work;
like geography, age and faith
At the most,
love can sometimes call someone back,
though not always
or maybe not for long
At the least,
it can feel like the power to reach someone far off
with the right distress call,
which sometimes tries to come out in words,
or songs, or undignified sobbing

When I open my mouth to scream
but no sound comes out,
that’s love denied,
turning me from bedrock into sand
Turning hope against me
Pulling me into tides of thought
so private
they can only be shared with strangers

Skipping Class

I didn’t mean to,
just forgot it was a field trip today
Which is probably for the best
Couldn't imagine being trapped on a bus right now,
or pretending to listen to a tour

The rightness of this lapse hits me
as I freeze still, 100 yards from the car,
whoever heard of someone too sad to walk
I feel the tears coming,
like when you know you’re going to be sick
and the only thing to do is wait
One foot after another, until I get to the grass divide
It’s blurry now and so I stop again,
trying to focus on the lichens washed down by February rainstorms
in their riot of frost green, lime, black and orange

Once the first surface tension is broken,
the tears just pour down instead of crowding my eyes,
so I can drive home fine

Mom, could you talk to me for a while
Just say something,
whatever’s on your mind
Please
“Sure, honey.”

Posted by natasha at December 2, 2006 02:58 PM | Fiction | Technorati links |
Comments

"At the most,
love can sometimes call someone back,
though not always
or maybe not for long"

It's usually worth a look. See?

Posted by: Jared Scarborough at December 5, 2006 01:02 PM

wefve

Gates Wins Unanimous Senate Committee Approval as Defense Secretary
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Posted by: efvefv at December 5, 2006 06:05 PM