Skylos Brings it to the Top Again

Skylos

How does one know the difference
between self-preservation and self-effacement?
Distrusting appearances seems like a good place to start,
but where does one travel from there?
When foolishness is wisdom,
weakness is strength,
and suffering is good for you,
is recognition of humility pride?

Parables, commentaries, and critical analyses turn me in circles
—and leave me in a heap with my tongue hanging out.

Logos in Reserve

Word Hoard

My word hoard
continues to grow.
Soon there will be
no room for me.
The stack
is becoming
too big,
too teetering,
too good-for-someday only.
I try to add nothing,
try to take nothing.
I need the silence,
but can’t remember
where I put it.

Places, Please

Places, Please

Do you remember the day
you decided to teach?
Silly question.
Of course you remember it.
Even then, as young as we were,
we both understood
that it was your personal Rubicon.

What made you do it?
Was it that skirt?
What would you even call that color?
Cerulean? No, it was deeper than that.
Prussian? Nah, not enough green.
Turquoise? Way too bright.
Teal. Maybe we should leave it at that.
OK, so your skirt was teal,
your blouse was white,
and those fabulous chestnut boots
your mom had ordered from Speigel
carried you up to the podium.
I sometimes think that
if I had been wearing that outfit,
I, too, would have done what you did.

So many images from those years
have fled my mind.
Sometimes, with a nudge
from that old journal I still have
—you know, the one he made us keep for class—
a picture begins to crystalize in my mind.
I still remember what I wore to that dance
—diamond-shaped, mirrored earrings;
the fuchsia vest rimmed with green;
the skinny black tie pecked with pink—
and which song was playing
when Aaron kissed me.

Where are you now?
I wish I could find you
and tell you that
Debby and her disciples
—those mindless minions
who cared about little more than
safety and acceptance
and surviving long enough
to get their gold stars and get out—
were the ones who were wrong,
the ones with nothing to live for,
the ones who wouldn’t know meaning
if it rose up in front of them
and knocked them on their backs.

It was always about them,
but, at least once,
it shouldn’t have been.
If I hadn’t been caught in the headlights,
watching from my desk as it
all played out in slow motion,
I swear I would have stood up for you.
If those mirrored earrings could have
shown me the future,
even given me a hint
that the world would never be the same
for you
after that day,
I would have stood up,
I would have advanced to Debby’s desk,
I would have bloodied her nose, and then
I would have clutched your hand
to lead you from that classroom
and into a life
where your worth was recognized.

I would have pulled the trigger
for you, Thelma, but
I could do nothing more than
perceive the rush of air
as it came over the windshield
and wonder if I’d feel anything
when we hit bottom.

Circulation

Circulation

The roundness of tonight’s moon
added depth to her words
printed on the old newspaper
that happened to find its way
into my hands.

She is a former colleague
who might have been a friend
if our paths had crossed
at a different point
in the cycle of life.

“I sense a circle full,”
she wrote,
sharing her past,
hinting at her future,
and reminding us all
that life becomes death
and death becomes life.

The vines
that form the wreath
are pliable.
They bend.
And as one slides past
another,
a crook
catches on
a flaw.

Branches tangle for a while,
spending time together,
until they break free
and go their separate ways,
continuing on so that
a ring is formed.

Harold at the Phone Company

Voices

I was having telephone trouble,
so I contacted the phone company.
A garrulous voice that called itself Harold
let me know I had found what I was looking for.

“How may I help you?” he asked.

“I’m hearing voices,” I replied.

“What the hell?”
he muttered not quite quietly enough.
Then: “Excuse me?”
as he wiggled a finger in his ear,
like that would somehow get him better reception
or maybe change the words I had just placed in his tubes.
(At least, that’s what I imagined.)

“Let’s start again,” he told me,
in a tone too many use with children.
“You do know that you’ve reached the phone company,
and that I can only help you with problems involving your phone?”

“Yes,” I replied,
in a tone not enough use with the smarmy.
“I know who I called and why.
As I told you, I’m hearing voices.”

“Geez, lady. Can’t you give a guy a break?”

A giggle.
Mine.
An apology.
Mine.
Then:
“I don’t like to complain,
and I can’t always explain.”

“Try, please.”

“When I pick up the phone,
I hear other people’s calls.
I know that Heather is leaving Philip
because she thinks she’s in love with Harold
—oh my gosh, Harold, not you;
I’m sure it’s another.”
(But I swear I heard him
choke on his own spittle.)
“Betty has cancer,
Joe lost his job because he drinks too much,
and Martha is having a crisis of faith.”

Nothing.

“Harold? Are you there?
Do you know who you work for
and why you answered the phone?” I asked
in a tone doctors use with the head injured.
“Harold?”

Throat clearing.
“Yes. Yes. I’m here. Sorry.
How long has this been going on?”

“Well, how should I know?
I’ve never even met Heather.
But I don’t believe she loves him
—Harold, that is. The other Harold.
She’s just feeling neglected by her husband,
who works too much and talks too little.”

Again, nothing.

“Harold? I thought you wanted
to help me with my phone problems.
Are you still there?”

“Yes. Yes!” he barked.
“How long have been
listening to other people’s
private conversations?”

“Oh!
I don’t think I like your tone.
But if you’d like to know
how long I’ve been subjected
to other people’s problems—
well, that would be my whole life.”

“Ma’am. Ma’am.
That is not what I meant.”
(His voice was filled with
all the contrition he could pump into it,
and that wasn’t much.)
“I simply want to know
how long you have had
phone trouble.”

“Since the day before yesterday,
thank you very much.
Can you fix it?”

“Yes. I’m sure I can,”
he told me.

A pause.
Then:
“Are you sure
she still loves her husband?”

Mend on Wednesday

Mending Day

I have thread and needle,
jars of buttons, even a zipper or two,
just in case—
in case something valuable needs mending.

The problem seems to be
that I possess nothing of value,
other than my heart,
and thread,
even if it’s labeled heavy duty,
is no use there.

A spool of love is what I need,
but I’ve looked,
and there is none to be found.
Of course, other offerings abound:
I can get Arctic White and Winter White,
but love is warmer than that.
Atom Red, Bright Red, or Maroon
might match my heart,
but the stitches would never hold.

Some want me to place an order for love,
but they won’t guarantee delivery.
Others assure me that they
can offer me love next week,
while the pushy ones
try to sell me something else.
None of it is any good to me.
I can accept no substitutes,
and I continue to hope
that I’ll find some soon.

So until I acquire the real thing,
I’ll pull my coat close
and hope no one sees
my threadbare, tattered heart.
Then I’ll pray as I button up
that no one asks me to use it.