Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentines Unsent


The candle is lit. I take my hand from nowhere and place it on the warmth of you. I feel your pulse, but more. The world, the heart of life itself, beating there.

Do I say I love you? Do I say never before like this? Words, words: how do I say what I cannot say, what cannot be said? How do I press my skin against you such that you feel it, the so-much-more behind it?

She sings, the cantora, pulls much from me. Moves my feet round the Christmas tree--that glow, that glow! And you, nowhere near. Far. Snow after field after field of snow between here and there. But I reached, reached anyway. Long tendrils of something I want to call love, something I called love.


Snow sings. Do you hear it? I hear it, and they tell me I'm crazy. I am not crazy. I am in love with the snow and the crickets and the morning air and sand kernels, each one a different colour. Sing with me, would you? Sing with me. Simply: I want to take your hand and love you--is that so bad? I am not broken; I am whole. I am missing you, Jenny, come home.


I've been calling to you for the longest time, but facing in the wrong direction. Or have I? Have I really called for you, poised over the dry ground and pouring my tears into it? Crying for your absence rather than excitedly anticipating your presence? I think not.

I am full of apology. I love you, and yet I have doubted you. Never. Never again, the minor key. I stand tall and hum, sing in major keys now. Your place at the table is set.

You excite me, bestill me, antagonize and delight me. Fortune leaves such gifts only to those who sustain an open palm, to those who are able.

Render, render yourself as you are ready: I know it may not be time. Spring comes when it comes, and this year, it just may come twice. But never mind that, the when. I want to tell you about now, this minute, this second which shall never return.

I am sitting in a brightened room in a high school with seven other writers, writing. Beethoven is pushing our pens faster and faster still. The room smells of sweet fruit--cherry, maybe. A candle? I'm not sure. But something that has prevailed over two Tuesdays and all the intervening days.

Piano, violin, my slate blue silk on top and the neat gray of simple slacks underneath. The "Anne" shoes: I'm tall with heels and, so, taller. I am here, but not here. I am split three ways. There is the class to attend to, the regret and emergency of the day: Esther is not well, and I don't know the details of that. And there is you. You are there, here, but not.



It was autumn
we walked. Mushrooms
pulled our hands
up then down
for the picking. "Delectable"
"choice": these
are the words
of the mushroomer.

And "poison" of course:
my skull cap, my
devil's bolete--a fatal
attraction. But who
can resist that red button
flecked as if

sugared. So long
I have missed you
Why would I
miss you more now?


It's the bare arm, in snow, that draws me. She should be cold, but she is not. It is as if there is sun blazing, warming her skin, relaxing her pores. She is easy with this walk through snowy woods, coatless, resisting nothing.

"Tuesday? That means I will see the Doctor, have my exam, write a column, and go to class."

She pushes not at all against these stations of her day. She embraces them--warmly, in fact, as if they were lovers, each of them. Beloved ones she would be sad, bereft from which to part. "I see," she seems to say, "how precious you are." She speaks to the minutes, the milliseconds in this way, or so it seems. Yet she has come from chaos and cold heartedness: family who did not touch one another. So stingy with affections that she doubted they had them.

Avocado, perfectly ripe and sliced onto a tuna sandwich: this is the last meal she relished. Because it was shared with her deepest love. They sat touching, leg to leg--the feet too, I think. Yes, the feet. And the meeting of eyes now and then. They are familial, though not at all related. Familial in a way she'd heard was possible, supposed was possible.

It is no perfect love--far from it. But its substance--its depth, its breadth--is unmistakable.

She feels the hands still that held her, days ago now, by the rib cage. That organ of feeling, that well of emotion and wisdom poised, balanced for a moment between them. She still feels the hands though she is gone away now, back north, five hundred miles north, where she abides the wintriness. Where she is left wondering, then resolving to move closer. Left resolving then breaking that resolve one minute to the next.

"I must let it all go," she declares, "move on, move on."

Yet something pulls her toward again. Toward the perfect imperfection, with its mesmerizing design.



Cup my check, would you? Right there—there.
Like that. Hold it, would you, awhile there? Just
hold it. I’ve waited—ohh, I’ve waited for this.

You’d think they’d know. Know enough. If they
could make one, you’d think they’d know how to
keep one, happy, a little girl, or two.


And if I go inside, will you follow?

Round the world. Round the world, I’d follow.

On accoun’a my heart. It’s my heart, iddn’ it?
You’re afraid it’s gonna go, out’a sight’f ya,

I could tell you worse things, huh?


Been here before, have you? Well, neither have I.
But let me tell you, we’re going. My good love,
we’re going. And it’s a home place, I promise—it’s
a home place. Tell the cats.


Do you suppose there’s a future in this?

More than happenstance, I’ll tell you that. Like a
certain quality of light. It’s there, and it’s there.
But face it, some don’t see it. Don’t look.

We were looking. We saw it. The light. Just so.

On hemlock.

On hemlock.

By the rhododendron. Traced by bees.

You…I thought…I had invented…


I see a sunset and I think I must be dying. You know, those moments at the beach house when you look out and see peach--I mean goddamn tulip peach. That a sky can whip up a color like that, I just don’t know. But you see this peach all aglow through the next-door windows—right through the house like it’s a cut-out card or something—and you think, I gotta be dying, to feel what I feel lookin’ at this pretty sight. What a sight! You think, No one should be given a gift like this and get the gift of another day or more of living on top of it. Yeah, that’s it. That’s exactly it.

Oh Lawd, and then the bells. You know, there are times I hear bells and I think His big hand is on its way down to just lift me up out of this once and for all. Not that I want to go anywhere, mind you. ‘Specially since I got this hand to hold…


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