Excerpt #109, Rocking-Chair Moon

Two for One
—Ben

I’ve never been that great around girls—
small talk and smooth talk and pretense
don’t work for me—
but from the first foggy instant
I saw Megan and she saw me,
I knew she didn’t care about that stuff,

that even with a wounded body and mind
and heart, I was a whole and genuine and
interesting person to her,
and right away the conversation between us
flowed back and forth
like Cabo waves, warm and charged
(but without the scariness),

and even in those first few moments
I believed what passed between us
was real and meaningful,
and I hoped lasting,
and I could barely keep my eyes
from her face,
but whenever they weren’t on her
they found her little guy Ethan,

who put aside his shyness
to send me a smile,
then another,
and eventually to shake my hand,
not bothered
that it wasn’t the conventional one,
that it was the only choice,

and now—weeks later and home finally—
as I feel the warmth continue to pass
between him and me, and I gaze at his mom’s
proud, adoring face (and the rest of her),
my imagination goes wild and I’m overwhelmed
by this unrealistic, unreasonable,
irrational but undeniable scenario—

if Megan and I can keep this connection going,
it won’t just be the two of us,
it’ll be Ethan too,
it’ll be like having two birthdays a year,
like being picked for eighth by the experts
and not just coming in third,

but first, and breaking the record on top of it,
like going for milkshakes with your dad
and having him give you what’s left of his
and what’s left of his
is what you’ll always remember,
what you’ll always cherish.

 

SOLD Sign
—Carly

I caught Mr. Felder in his driveway today,
loading stuff into a U-Haul.
He claimed he was going to stop in
to say good-bye,
but he hadn’t had a chance yet,
and I believed the private
—but honest—Jonas Felder.

He’s replacing his house with a cheap one
in far-off Arizona, where he can run
no matter what and the winters
won’t make an old man’s bones ache,
and a small one in a nearby over-55
development (Denture City, he calls it),
where I’m sure they don’t allow hoodlums
in rapist vans.

We hugged good-bye, and I thanked him,
and even though his expression told me
he wasn’t certain why I was so grateful,
I didn’t explain because there would never
be enough time to do that.

There’s going to be
a hole in our neighborhood.

 

Pictures at Eleven
—Ben

I don’t watch much TV and here’s why:
Tonight on the news a story came on,
and before I had a chance
to hit the mute button, the anchorman,
trying to tone down his smile
and tone up the sincerity in his voice,

let me know that a car had hit a pedestrian
walking along the shoulder
of a dark country road,
and the driver got out and checked
for vital signs and called 911
and got back in his car
and shot himself in the head.

Isn’t it weird—and disturbing—
how some people
care so overwhelmingly, so heartbreakingly,
for other people—
family, friends, strangers, even—
and some care nothing at all?

 

Never Too Late
—Carly

Didn’t have a sister.
Found the best one in the world
waiting to find me.

 

Beatitude:
Blessed Are the Wounded,
for Healing Is a Pathway to Hope.
—Ben

We meet at the confluence
of our swirling finny schools
and engage for what could have been
just an instant and an inch
in the zillion acre ocean,
a once-in-our lifetimes encounter

that we might mistake as chance,
you of the shiny scales, rainbow-hued,
I of dusky colors, scars here and there,
a lingering habit of looking back warily,
because I still carry the chill
of those icy black depths with me.

Though you’ve cruised
some bleak canyons yourself,
you take a chance on a feeling,
and we swim away, close,
your winking glow falling on me
like moonlight penetrating the waves,

and I sense your radiance
becoming a part of me,
infusing my scales, skin, brain,
feathery spine,
heart,

and slow-tailing to a timeless tune,
we drift toward an inviting piece of bait
dangling at the end of a thin
yet immeasurably long line,

but I see the imbedded hooks
and I’m leery of their barbs,
sharp and enduring,
and the presence of a huge serpentine shadow
hovering overhead, and I urge you on,
to shallow waters,
away from temptation and risk.

But is uncertainty, is the possibility
of losing you forever,
what I want? I wonder, and I know
the answer,
I know that although there may be
countless fish in our ocean,

there’s only one you, one instant, one inch,
for our two lifetimes,
and if I let time and place and you slip away,
what kind of cold companion
would my caution be?

So I turn, you turn, we turn, and take the bait,
letting the barbs sink in, deep,
and we head off on our adventure,
running out great lengths of line,

knowing that someday,
when we’re at last reeled in and weighed and
measured, still together,
we’ll have our memories, cool, warm, hot,
and someone’s gonna have
a helluva story to tell.

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