Tear It Out

Tear It Out

Billy’s life of quiet desperation
never before concerned you,
so why pretend to care now?

I stepped in to fill the void you left
when you snuck away with Ted,
taking with you all Billy held dear.

You always were one to capitalize
on a situation others find abhorrent—
your optimism extending to no one but you.

Soon enough he’ll be out of reach.
Is that what drives you to grasp for him now?
Is that why you squeeze those tears onto his pillow?

I long ago learned the futility of trying to best you.
You play the game better than I,
never questioning the value of the prize.

If my tragic flaw is clarity of vision, so be it.
I’ll offer you my eyes and feel my way home,
blind to all, including that in me which I hate in you.

Save

Change of Season

Change of Season

My mouth is dry,
my tongue thick and heavy.
It feels foreign,
as if it doesn’t belong to me.
Would my body betray me that way?

Perhaps I just need a glass of water
—but I’ve downed six or seven today,
and the thirst remains, unslaked, unmoved.

My lips are cracked,
and opening them hurts.
I’ve started communicating
without words,
but I miss them terribly.

Is this state of affairs temporary?
Could it be my very own
winter of discontent?

Out front, six or seven crocuses
are preparing to enter from stage left.
Daffodils and tulips will share the spotlight next.
Water from today’s rain puddles in their curled leaves.
I wonder if it’s enough for me.

Memorializing Mediocrity

School Years

I jumped through school hoops
better than all but two of my peers
and was happy to keep my mouth shut.

At college I outplayed most of my mates,
simply by following the directions, and
typing up the words that were wanted.

It was early success for a slow learner
unable to figure out the important stuff
until her life was at least half over.

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.

There is No Place to Hide

Fences

We exist
only at the perimeter
of our minds.

Huddled near the fence,
we steal glances
at the diamond-shaped reality
beyond our grasp.

That’s the reality that looks
so very like our own,
except that it’s inhabited by
someone we don’t know.

There he sits.
There he waits—
in perfect peace.

We see his lips move,
as he forms one word.

But we shun his greeting,
pretending we neither see nor hear.

We stand.
We stare.
We despair.

The fence is too high to climb,
but just around the corner
is a gate, and it has no lock.

Still we stand, shuffling awkwardly.

There he sits.
There he waits—
in perfect peace.

Then, one day,
one of us takes a step.
A step—not shuffling, not fidgeting.

The real deal, and we all saw it.

The stepper looks at us,
daring one of us to speak,
and is met with astonished, frightened eyes.

Finally she cries, “It was one little step, for pity’s sake!”

But she doesn’t take it back,
and everything has changed.