A pick-up truck that’s idling by my place,
door-dented, ill-maintained, in traffic’s mess,
conveys a former mate. I see his face
through tinted glass but I can’t see what stress
has done to it in these few weeks. My friend
is weird and careless, self-absorbed and dim.
His stubborn negligence brought on the end
of 13 years of life, and peace for him.
I can’t imagine devastation worse
than causing my own child’s cold demise.
My future would be circumscribed; the curse
of wishing ill to all I’d realize.
Resenting any smiles, I would cave
beneath my grief.
The traffic moves.
I feel unready for today to start
(except I want the hemisphere to wake).
I mean I seem to lack the strength or heart
to tackle all my tasks without mistake.
My soul is weary but I leave this bed.
My legs are tired but I’ll ride the bike.
It feels like staying home is what my head
prefers, but doggedly I’ll make my hike
to catch a train to haul myself to work,
to catch up on the jobs I haven’t done,
to catch me up in messages that jerk
me every way and leech out any fun
that might have been experienced instead.
On second thought, I’m going back to bed.
The zircons in my lunch companion’s ears
are just too big for Saturday at noon.
Transparent as her ego, false as tears
of petulance, each signals like the moon
at dawn: a circle empty as a hole
against a surface pale as dying leaves.
They twinkle as she bites her buttered roll.
They glitter as she knots her sweater sleeves.
She flicks her head to toss her processed hair
and wink her lobes, conversing as she chews
about her daughter. Twisting in her chair
she gasps, “How could that 9 year-old refuse
to live with me?” Confused indignant then,
she agitates her zircon ears again.
A person’s life cannot be simply viewed
and truly won’t reduce to pigeonholes,
but watching how she shifts her attitude
invites a witness to assign her roles.
So first we see her focus on her ends,
(evaluating selfishly in fact),
and when that fails, the lead is passed to friends;
she won’t initiate but she’ll react.
And having bounced between the two extremes,
a bullet ricocheting in the rocks,
we comprehend her twin recurring themes –
unnecessary anger, or a box
of self-description that restricts her sight
and curbs her soul from walking in the light.
I get it now: I made a huge mistake –
assessing my relationships as deals
we cut together, thinking we could make
a thorough interaction that reveals
our selves in full. And so we struck our pact,
in voices two but understanding I
alone absorbed. Coerced agreement lacked
equality, and so was bound to die.
And yet I’m still compelled to make a deal.
I’m still in love with words, and positive
they hold a form of magic that is real,
explaining and enhancing how I live.
I’m trying still to settle all I see,
but now I make successful deals with me.
I hate to be conspicuous, and yet
I seldom move unless I call the tune.
I’m not in charge – a pattern isn’t set
by me – I’m just as shadowless at noon
as anyone somnambulating by.
I’d rather you not notice me, but here
and irrepressibly alive am I:
a zillion atoms under atmosphere.
I’d rather never talk before a crowd.
I hesitate before I start to dance.
Appearance doesn’t mean that much to me.
But often I’m excited and I’m loud.
Expanding I forget; I take a chance
on living, and now everyone can see.
Do you take in less food on holiday
and never cramp from exercise at all?
Do you disdain to warm up any way,
avoid a stretch, detest a shopping mall,
feel sorry for the drivers in their cars
who fail to recognize they’re in a cage,
and think the message media from Mars,
alike suspicious of the screen or page?
Do you want every question clarified?
Do you explore the or beneath the seem?
Do you think it’s a privilege to decide,
and prize above all else your self-esteem?
Do you think you are worthy, but bizarre
and probably alone? I think you are.