He called himself a cowboy poet, and he performed wearing an old straw hat. It had been awhile since he rode a horse, but he never really mentioned that. He knew the smell of wet hay, of course, but it’d been years since he scraped dung off his boots. It’s true he missed being out in the fresh air, but he didn’t miss seeing all the redneck brutes. He still remembered seeing the cow’s fear when some were taken off to auction, and his memory still brought a silent tear at the thought of a mother cow’s grief-induced exhaustion.
When pressed, he could still carry on a cowboy’s prattle, but it was undeniably true he was all hat and no cattle.
She was explaining about how each moment had an infinite number of possibilities and how each possibility existed in an alternate universe where each subsequent moment created an infinite number of following possibilities and how each of these possibilities existed in even more parallel universes where every possible story line for every possible moment was played out with both cosmic justice and celestial irony.
But he was distracted by the movement of her lips. He was watching the flutter of her eyelashes and the dilation of her pupils. He was enthralled, almost thrilled, but appeared bored. She said, “You’re not even listening,” and started to gather her things.
He was disappointed, yes, but it wasn’t the first time a casual social interaction had gone awry. All the same, he wondered what might have happened if he’d only listened a bit more carefully or at least explained that he’d been distracted by her lips.
Dominic’s parents took him to church and warned him to sit still. Of course he had a fidgeting fit as all boys his age will. He sat for eternity in a state of seemingly suspended frustration. He tried against his wont to focus on redemption and abomination, but he couldn’t get his mind off Susie’s note, better reading than the Bible. But it slipped from his pocket when he took his seat and fell on the other side of Nigel.
I was frozen in some fragmented reality,
fearful, frayed, and in flight when Dylan
reassured me that after the first death,
there would be no other.
we knew that others would die,
but mercifully each only once,
only one agony to go around,
and that’s how it always is
when the sun stops shining, light breaks and thighs warmed by
candles thrust toward new beginnings,
new horizons, even as skin drops
from bone, even as hope sizzles
on hot pavement.
But there’s pleasure
yet in the death spiral, the free fall
into summer, or spring, or winter
where we are always surprised
by the break of light, the answer
from the dark, and my boy Dylan
grinning under the shroud of
some, well, maybe it is just a
Maybe this time
a halted dawn is literal,
and we will only limp
to the last break of light.
“But can you imagine a worse fate for your declining years than being read aloud to by Simone de Beauvoir?” ~Elizabeth Bishop
Other people were Sartre’s idea of Hell,
but Elizabeth Bishop’s idea of Hell was Simone de Beauvoir.
And somehow these three, brimming with radical freedom
and unconventional relationships, illuminated my way
to my own path of mediocrity and obscurity punctuated
by poor, if unconventional, choices in lifestyle and relationships.
From their inspiration, I was driven to write sporadically,
love without enthusiasm, and live quietly on the fringes
of a friendly but disinterested community surrounded
by an interested but hostile society of blame and recrimination.
In some unjustified fantasy, I sometimes imagine that Sartre would
approve of me or that Beauvoir might wish me greater freedom.
Elizabeth Bishop might mourn my dim light but not think it a disaster.
But still, I imagine myself in their shoes, standing on a balcony
overlooking the Montparnasse Cemetery before writing in a cafe
on the ground floor. And here I am, just like them!, sitting with my lover,
writing in a notebook, drinking Beaujolais, and munching quietly on a fresh galette.
The words neither flow nor drip but must be pried out, singly, and with great effort.
But still, you can feel the energy, can’t you?, where fertile minds spawned the
great works, and I have spawned faint evidence of mental effort, in their shadow.