It was the child who wiled away the time
reading under a blanket with a flashlight
& the student who stole time from sleep
to study under fluorescent lights;
it was the unscrupulous sort who made time
with married women,
the couple who shared their time
as they shared their responsibilities,
& the returning soldier who tried to make up for lost time;
it was the patient who killed time waiting in recovery
& the amnesiac who lost time;
it was the disgruntled worker who stole time;
it was the blackmailer who set the time
& the person being blackmailed who tried
to buy some time;
it was the firefighter who raced against time,
the cop who got there in the nick of time,
& the prisoner who served time
or was awarded time served;
it was the saint who gave their limited time,
the sinner who took their sweet time,
& the martyr who sacrificed their time forever;
it was the millionaire who saved time
& the poor who spent time;
it was the keen who used their time wisely;
it was the photographer who captured time,
the writer who documented time,
& the historian who depicted a time;
it was the parent who invested their time,
the mother who made the time
like she made everything else—
& the father who found the time
that his father had given away;
it was the grandparents who passed the time,
even as time passed them;
and it was the lover of life who made the most of her time
by having the time of her life,
for she was the patient living on borrowed time.
She lived her life not in absolutes
but in maybies,
She never knew where she was going to be
5 or 10 years from now;
all she knew was that her daily decisions
kept her going in the right direction.
When the learned astronomer went blind,
he hired a foundling—
a lost soul hovering between heaven & hell.
A wealthy intellectual
(which was an oxymoron, for some),
he asked the boy to be his eyes,
to describe everything he saw.
And it was through the eyes of the blind,
that the learned astronomer’s apprentice,
through service to another,
reached his potential.
When the learned astronomer closed his eyes
for the final time in earth-space,
the boy’s eyes had been opened,
for there’d been nothing he’d ever had
that had been of value to anyone,
except to the learned astronomer
whose last sight was feel of the boys’ wet face
in his hands.
She bicycled, upcycled, & recycled,
Her collar had faded from blue to white,
only to deepen into green.
She planted herself where she would grow the most–
an environment where she could be her most creative.
And with every ripening
& every reaping,
there would not be an uprooting,
but a replanting,
for she would leave a seed in her place–
ready to help the next person grow
in that place.
As Angel & Demon walked side by side in a parallel universe,
they came upon an impressionable human being
hitchhiking their way through the galaxy–
now standing before that split in the wishbone.
These 2 otherworldly beings were on a mission:
to gain a soul,
a lost one.
The Demon told this being
that all their senses would be heightened
to anything they had ever experienced on Earth;
the Angel said that what they would experience
beyond the mythical pearly gates
would transcend all senses.
When the human being chose the planet
of the sun rays & the moon beams
over the one of candlelight & firelight,
they realized that they’d been to this place before,
& that the life they’d known had been a scavenger hunt–
where only a minority had figured out
that it was not themselves they were looking for,
but the Ticketmaster with the unlimited tickets
that had already been paid for.
“I need to be there,” you always said,
and there was never here—in the now,
in whatever space you found yourself standing in.
Your future always stole from your present,
and so we were left with your past.
You were without peripherals,
suffering from hyperopia.
We were never tall enough,
or loud enough,
or just enough.
We reached for you,
our arms like trees fighting for sunlight,
but you were a vapor with a cell
that imprisoned you,
a mist with a career that made you feel
like you had it all,
even as it took everything you had.
You showed up everywhere else,
save your own life,
with the lives you created.
You were a stranger—
the house fairy,
the food fairy,
the birthday present fairy.
You made things happen
behind the scenes;
you were the part of the movie
we never saw.
She built a little house,
and a great big life.
She married well,
she married for life.
She’d found love,
but not a soul-mate,
for she, not the stars,
They were child- and carefree
for he loved whom he had found,
not who he could have created.
Then the day came that she needed
a part of him he could live without.
She lived, but he did not.
The irony was metallic,
Under the Floridian sun,
he was buried–
the hurricanes with her wild horses came,
the rains turned the ground muddy,
and there was that thready blanket of snow
that came one winter.
Then long after she came to join him,
everyone who had memory of him,
like ashes in the wind.
like a childhood scar,
until it could no longer be seen.
For all the things I am thankful for—
the silver linings that are often sewn
in tarnished gold;
for the golden globe that covers the earth in light,
the pearl that glows at night,
the diamonds upon which wishes have been made;
for the wrinkle in the sky
which separates the land from the sapphire sea
that turns emerald in the day;
for the ruby-red hearts called strawberries.
For cool tile under bare feet on a hot day,
the softness of fuzzy socks in the winter that
let me slide on hardwood floors;
for the feeling of the water mister on my face
in a park on a summer’s day,
or lying under a fan with the windows open
with the sounds of the rain and thunder—
a soothing static.
For the aroma of chocolate chip cookies baking,
filling the house with eyes-closed memories;
for pasta dinners al fresco,
by moonlight and candlelight.
For the smell of ripening peaches at a roadside stall,
and snow that’s the stuff of childhood fun;
for seventy-two degree weather in winter,
and air-conditioning in summer.
For the seashells that wash upon the beach after a storm
like unburied treasures;
for the gentle gulf breezes that tangle my wispy hair,
and the stillness that warms my skin.
For goodness for goodness’ sake,
for the playful antics of dogs and children,
and for joy that goes beyond mere happiness.
For microscopes that help us see old things in new ways;
for the technology that has enhanced communication
for music, that touches us on a deeper level,
and for art, that moves us;
for books, that take us away from it all,
and for life, that draws us back in.
For the holidays that mark our calendars,
for the regular days that fill in, in-between—
for all are dots on the maps of our lives,
so that we can say we have been places—
that we have truly lived.
Memories are the remnants
of unreliable narrators and
of fanciful adults about their childhood,
and bitter adults about theirs.
Memory is both selective and imagined,
sometimes as fuzzy as 20/100 vision,
others, as sharp as Andy Rooney’s wit,
but real all the same.
In my fifth-grade yearbook, under what it said I wanted to be when I grew up, was eye doctor. I was fascinated with eyes at that time, and it got me to thinking how many plans we make for ourselves in our youth that never come to pass, simply because life gets in the way. It is funny now, when I think about what I wrote all those years ago, because the thought of touching my own eyeball (much less anyone else’s) freaks me out (which is why I could never do contacts. My dad (who graduated in ’69) shared with me a country song (can’t remember the artist or title now) about a graduating class, and all that happened to them. As one of his many little “projects”, he wrote a poem in the same format about his own graduating class. All of this inspired today’s poem.
It was May of 1969,
that eight girls of the class of Middleton High
all made plans to follow their dreams far from home.
Elsewhere was that wonderful, but elusive place,
though so many had tried before them,
only to return like battered wives and wayward husbands.
The girls believed they had outgrown Here,
that they could make it Anywhere,
as long as it wasn’t Near.
Faith Goodwin was like her name—
faith-filled, full of good, always won at Everything,
Most Likely to Succeed at Something,
though her only success was ending up in the maternity ward
seven times by the same man.
the girl with a book,
but never a boy under her arm.
She was the librarian’s muse
for years until he died,
him having written but one poem
of ten lines.
Marnie Owens, the cheerleader,
who married the football player—
the team that dictated the rules for faculty,
for they brought in all the money.
They were like little gods, in this way,
but not quite celestial dictators,
numbered as the stars.
Marnie cheers from a wheelchair now,
but no one cares,
for women still cheer for the men
who would leave them.
Judy Carnes, the chunky class clown,
who gave everyone a reason to laugh with her.
She fell in love with the boy who fell in love with Faith.
She watched their children,
this lady at The Chocolaterie,
who gave away big marshmallows in little cups.
Carol Hunt, the import from England,
who liked to say she ate spotted dick—
all with a runcible spoon.
Always with a British flag on her lapel,
she felt above all the hicks of Cheesegate,
(for Middleton was positively scandalous in is provinciality)
because she pronounced words a different way.
She fell in love with Jill Ellen,
who, from the day she came,
everything seemed to go awry.
Susan and Debbie Carter,
twins, it seemed, of a different mother,
who shared boys and nothing more.
Then there was Jill Ellen Roth,
who came to the town of Middleton
from the skyscraping landscape of Manhattan,
escaping the worms of the Big Apple,
seedy and rotten to its core,
only to die at the hands of four of these girls,
for reasons known only to them.
After childhood comes adolescence,
along with feelings of uncertainty about who we are.
Adulthood follows—when we discover who we really are.
Then middle age creeps upon us—
when we begin to look back at who we were
and despise ourselves for it.
Old age sets in not too long after,
and we revert to childhood.
But for those who had no childhood,
there is no going back.