When I was a teenager, I stopped putting ice
in my “iced” tea, and started drinking it right
out of the pitcher at room temperature. After an
initial phase of alarm on the part of my family, they
sort of just decided that if I was too lazy to put ice
in my tea, then I deserved to suffer all the
consequences that might entail, which,
I have to tell you, weren’t very serious
consequences in the end. I still enjoyed
strong and sweet freshly brewed tea,
but I didn’t have to worry about ice
trays or running out of room in the
freezer or any of that stuff. I was just
happy in my own kind of way.
A few years ago, I moved to England,
where nobody drinks iced tea,
so ice is no longer an issue, but
I still drink tea at room temperature,
which surprises the people who notice,
because most people don’t drink tea
that has “gone cold” around here.
I do, of course, and it isn’t really a
problem so long as I hold onto my
tea mug in case someone notices
it has gone cold and dumps it in the sink.
And, yes, in both countries I still get
judgmental comments about how I like
a little tea in my sugar, but I’m not bothered.
Like when I go to Starbucks and order a
flat white, and the cashier asks what size
I want, and I say there is only one size of
flat white, pointing at the menu, but the
cashier says, no sir, you can have whatever
size you want, and I say, yes, but any other
size is not a flat white, is it? It’s just some
milk with coffee in it, and the barista is
confused as to why I’m so exercised about
a coffee order.
If I wanted this poem to be more intimate,
I would address the reader directly, and
invite the reader into my inner world.
I would use second-person pronouns and
share the deeper and darker aspects of
my personality. I would regale the reader
with stories of elation and spiritual fulfillment
along with brutally honest accounts of
self-doubt, anxiety, fear, and loathing.
I might make it a little shocking by offering
raw accounts of emotional terrorism,
suicidal ideation, perversion, and criminality.
I might make the reader uncomfortable,
embarrassed or outraged. But today I want to
keep my distance. I will only tell the reader
the weather is crisp and cool and fine enough
for a pleasant walk. The livestock are neighing,
and braying and crowing in a delightful
cacophony of good cheer. The holidays are
just around the corner, and it’s best
I keep my distance.
You’re usually expected to put
most of your attention on one person
at the center of all the action,
but I always get distracted by the
squire or the sullen daughter
or the doctor who just seemed so
unimpressed when her boss was
leading the rounds, showing off
for the residents.
I love how some secondary
characters manage to make it all
about themselves with an eye roll
or a sigh or a blank expression.
I guess it’s just fellow feeling
as I know I will never be the
central figure in any story,
perhaps not even my own,
but I still take solace in the
fact that supporting characters
sometimes become stars.
Most stories for children
are insanely cruel.
Filled with baby-eating witches,
and lawless fledglings flung
to the winds, we whisper our
reassurances that their worst
nightmares will never be real
so long as they trust us
I don’t think she ever loved me.
We’d sleep together, but she
never touched me in bed.
If I tried to stroke her face,
she’d pull away in disgust
with a violent shake of contempt.
From time to time, she’d run
away but return in due time.
She didn’t seem interested in
anyone else, so we appeared
doomed to share grudging company.
Maybe she was happy cohabiting
in shared shelter with no feeling.
Maybe she really longed for love,
but dreamed only of joining
a tight pack of her own kind.
The bulwark is protection
from him, not for him.
He sidles along
Touching the sides,
looking about furtively,
imagining tunnels and
catapults that could,
in another time and
circumstance, be his aids.
He’s come this far,
but in his old age
he has no choice
but to keep searching
for an opening,
for he’ll have no
ingress without invitation.
And at last, he finds
the wound in the wall,
slides through the
and follows what appears
to be light.