Tuesday, March 25, 2014

“The Last Waltz”

At the far right end of the dial,
the ignored AM radio station
whispers out
Englebert Humperdinck’s
“The Last Waltz,”
and I am
immediately
transported
to my childhood:

sitting
in the front seat of
Grandma Irene’s Impala,
feeling happy
and safe,
and blissfully ignorant
of adult responsibility.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Comrades (for Anita)

Rising from the battlefield,
bloodied but unvanquished
she still radiates.

I know the struggle.
I nurse her wounds.
I am her partner.

There is nobility
in her rising
and fixing her vision
on the next horizon.

At times like these
she appears to me
exactly as she did
at our beginning:
valiant, heroic,
and beautiful.

The contour of her
smoke-smudged profile
and the jewelry of her tears
inspires me
as I gird my armature.

We embrace
silently taking any
hope and strength we can
from one another
and declare again
our allegiance
and commitment
to victory
under the maxim:
“I love you, baby.”

Facing forward
side by side
we march onward again
onto the battlefield
of our daughter’s
mental illness.

[Originally written 2006, in the early stages of our daughter's depression.]

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Swooning

The horizon is
invisible,
the sun is
untouchable,
and the snow
is an slippery,
daunting
gauntlet.

I don't know
how I arrived here,
or what crimes
convicted me
to this fate,
but those things
don't matter

as much as
breathing deep
until my lungs ache

and swooning
underneath
the dizzying,
infinite
blue.

[Written for Heather Grace Stewart's writing prompt at http://heathergracestewart.com/2014/03/20/take-ten-thursday-writing-prompt-3/ - the picture above inspired it.]

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Sins of the Mother

Among my earliest memories:

it was a Sunday afternoon
and I was less than
5 years old

but I was
old enough to know
my weakness
because it was also
my mom’s weakness:

we were both fat.

I was taking
my bath
and my mom came in
to check on
something
and she saw my
slippery, overweight body
luxuriating in the soapy
water.

I remember
her face contracting
and her jaw tightening
as she hissed:

“if you don’t lose
that weight
I’m going to take you to the
doctor’s and he’ll cut
the fat off you
in strips!”

Her words seared me
like a surgeon’s scalpel.

I still have the scar.

My mom rarely
ventured out of her
self-imposed prison
in suburban Southern California
because
she always thought
she was too fat.

Sometimes the sins of the
mother are the sins of the son
and I fight for self-control
as I keep stuffing cookies
candy
anything
into me
far past the point of
satiety or enjoyment.

I have long since
forgiven my mom
because
growing up
as a fat boy
who didn't like sports
and would rather go shopping,
many times
she was my only friend
and because I know
what we detest most in others
is the part of us
that we hate the most,

but it still haunts me
forty years later

as I sit at my desk
with a soda
and a drawer
full of snacks
never far
from reach.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Soul Mates

"Look!
There he is, Eddie.
Every morning
same time
he leaves the house.

Don’t worry,
this’ll be easy-
he’s predictable
like a Timex.

Yeah, I know,
he looks like a real
tightass.

Yeah, I got your money.
You know where
he works, right?
Just give me
15 minutes.

She never needed much time.

Did I tell you I saw her
at the store
the other day?
Naw, she didn’t see me.
Looks great.
She always looks great.

What? Naw, he ain’t
gonna give you no trouble.
Kick his ass if you have to.

Just bring him back here
so he can see it
with his own two eyes.

Of course she still wants me.
We were soul mates,
she said so.

She’s just with
him for his money.
Yeah, she always was
kind of a whore.

I called last night
but when she answered
I hung up.

There he goes, man.
Follow him.

Okay, I’m hanging up now.

Got to reclaim
what’s mine."

Monday, March 03, 2014

Clean Break

You said you wanted
a clean break.

So I cleaned
the apartment
just like you trained me
(as you disdain
messiness and clutter).

I can clean anything,
but a lie
no matter how white
can never be cleaned.

Don’t bother to check
as I cleaned out
our joint checking account
and gave it all to charity.

As for my broken spirit,
a little hydrogen peroxide
should cleanse
that wound.

I even cleaned out
the barrel and chambers
of the little pre-owned
snub-nosed accomplice
I purchased
just for this occasion.

So, goodbye.

And, for the record
it wasn’t an accident
that I decided to do this
on your favorite white rug.

This is one stain
I won’t be able to clean
for you.