A soft touch and a hard hand, the teacher speaks in incantations, dronings of esoterica to mystify and satisfy his own urges to expel. Behind office hour doors he is hand full of slick hair clutched at the scalp mummified despair leaving its traces along the spiked tufts that resist gravity’s pull to his ears, one of which is pierced with a diamond stud. Only a knock, a student’s hand, a backward glance or a shy inquiry can shift his mood. His smile smeared on with putty lips, he ogles the words typed for him, pausing long over an improper punctuation or diction switch up. His eyes’ return are shuttered behind thick dark lashes that paint his pupils dark, the velvet of brown specked with black and stroked with soft charcoal malleable leniency and persuasion. The burning does not show. The coursing rage racing up the alleys of his cortisol-laden cerebral landscape, pathways to his libidinal longings for a leg, the hem of a skirt, a bite in the pen cap, tongue caressing the indentation, remains repressed against his spine, thrust shut in his pelvic dance of storming scribblings in marker red, furiously punctilious and benignly compliant. He is grade A swallowed fear in disgust, disguised as propitious transitioning. Everyone passes through and by the teacher while he remains, steady like the axis of a planet, a cross road or dawn’s return.
Limerent lover, you caught me when I fell from the sky, unable to fly any more, like Marquez’s winged Gabriel landed in the chicken coop, a mute wonder of decrepit miracle and obscene spectacle for sale. My wings had been clipped from the systematic circus of prosecutorial car clowns and elephantine asses braying in the windy tents of their failures. My flight was downed by opinion–a crippling injustice. You, imagining the first man bemoaning the lack of his mate, knew my journey even before I spoke it. I was the sign. You were the signifier.
Pouring into me the hope of a happy ending, the magic of healing and soul-worn revival of the A-1 amphetamine or the super pill of soporific splendor, I was your mother duck after the ardor of digging elongation from the dark enclosure and safety of the shell. You stretched. Your first light was the sun’s reflection in my tear-stained retinal orbs, blinding your peripheral vision forever and altering your perception of the pumping pinions of this bird, discerning a halo through the steaming breath in the cold of that fall night of your birth. I was your real.
Soon the collage I collaborated with in the making was filled with wind-swept plains of dust and despair or poppy plummets into sweet surrender-ful liquid love potion stares of hypnotic release. Wherever love and hate could be found I was there: in the trees that conspired to collapse the condor’s nest and in the giant avian mother’s courage to free her ovate unborn, in the evil of cardboard figures of terror-filled torturing shadow puppet fights and in the savior soldier’s merciful sacrificial sword of righteous right. I was the paste on your brush to sparkle your smile and the crusted crud on the blade of your unclean can opener.
Shooting up my words, your veins thicken even now long after the flash of my tail light has faded from view and the neon sign points to the hotel next door. Plum with the injected placebo of blossoming romance and forever ending rivulets of passion dribbles eked out of a nano-glance, a sliver of a smirk, an eye glimmer from a passing head light, you are confirmed. It means something. You have thought two thousand times in two thousand hours that it is so. In truth, you have obsessively intruded on the tale, remade the story.
You once threatened, the plot must end well or there will be no end to sorrow’s cascading falls into the mountain crevasses that poorly piloted Cessna’s crash into and crack up their cargo–ordinary men and women with a taste for the daring. The height of expectation and card castles is too great, the air too thin and be-speckled with polluting particles for a pure realization. Limerent. Listen. You.love.you.loving.me. That’s all.
Kelly and I did puzzles on Sundays, mornings mostly, when the New York Times double dared its daily puzzlers to take the bigger, harder challenge of the page-wide crossword. We were both super sleuths, so we toiled as two resolved to solve the mystery of the hour it took us to fill in all of the empty spaces between the black of the uninvited and irrelevant to the game–like our world on Sundays, just us. There were no other people or places more alluring than the chicory of our coffee, the shaded sun on our table, and the pencil and paper inked with our patience–unconditional time. We were peaceful and complacent then. The metronomic congeniality of our pocket of a world was no more, no less: in the middle of hurry and sleep.
Kelly was a mechanic. No matter the make, no engine escaped the exhaustive expertise of this meticulous and measured engineer with a temperament of a lover scientist: observant, percipient and objective, yet warm, conciliatory and intuitive. I often heard, “They all have the same components with a switch up here and there to make me go mad.” And even so, even after having handily fine tuned many similar models before me, the puzzler could not calibrate my candor nor loosen my brakes. Typically, my symptoms–the broken parts–never showed before a somewhat stranger (like finally taking the car into the shop for that noise that suddenly disappears), but with time and travel, the intermittent accelerator hesitation, piercing brake squeals and mysterious trunk rattles made the ride rough, uneasy. And so, after much studied twisting and turning and torquing, the chassis collapsed. I was an enigma.
When Kelly moved to the black, I would bring that scratch-pad stretch of space and moment to mind when suffering the turbulence of spinning-on-the-teacups Terry or enduring the ennui of Edward or Kim or Ken or Sam. Back then, I longed for presence of the puzzle, of even-keeled Kelly time in our kingdom of suspended seismography, no pantomime of the naked love or the jealous joust or the sentimental snore, just Cadillac calm and Bavarian precision.
Some might call you a rapist. I know you thought yourself one long ago, but funny how that doesn’t matter now. You were an enrapturing Minotaur, as graceless in body and limb as you were fluid in serum tongue, like mercury measuring my heat.
I was an older child (who looked like you), as you were too in retrospect, only much older than I though not so today. You merely sketch the outline of adult now in your busy importance.
Back then, you taught me heavenly hurt love, called me Lady, read me the mythological scenes of poetry penned just for me, the words mere song seeping into my uncomprehending color-less imagery. It might have been Frost or some other celebrated required reading poet; I know not now and memory is a poor substitute for imagination, but I knew there was magic and I was enchanted–lying on your cot, head cradled in the tee of your forearm and elbow, both of us facing the opened pages held fast above our upturned eyes and the Beatles Rubber Soul album playing “Norwegian Wood” softly below the bass hum of your words.
Staring at the mind-image that was you while in my basement bedroom reverie, I later wrote you letters of teenage wonder and blossoming wander lust and…just lust. Truth is, we were narcissistic flings, a trip into fantasy backpack floats through alpine crests of European mists, of narrow cobblestoned canals and sweet Portuguese Porto, a tent, a station, a kiss, a forest fuck, all for the flavor of black and white romance in tender hearts of sweet meats and fleshly oats of breakfast cereal dreams.
An old friend and former lover, the coach laughs with ease and Cheshire grin, inhaling the titters out of me. He is a stocky, dark complected man with large brown eyes gleaming in fear and amusement. He orders his world with hierarchies of God, family, faith and football, with rules and structure, even as he breaks them, breaks others, breaks vows. He is all human. But his heart is mutely echo’d in walls of cotton candied gelatin. The tears well with warm patriotic ardor and weal. Those strong, short arms once enfolded mine, vining around my biceps and wrists, making them fly a simulated soaring flight to the outside of our seedy hotel room, or back of the 79 Mercury or passenger seat of the 73 Beetle, in the park, in my bed. Sucking the world into him like hunger, the coach shouts, stomps, demands, and pushes politely with aggressive passivity, wanting others to love him and resenting them for making him want to impress them. He once said to me with pained realization after I withdrew my hand from his, “You’re cold, ” again proving plays and strategies win the field for the day and lose the love in the long days of getting on with career, raising children and growing old beyond sexual need, into erectile dysfunction and the comfort of the wife who is the worn leather silk of his favorite recliner, the one he couldn’t get out of and so sits way back, softly slouching the last cut, the remnants of the breadth of his shoulders, the line of resolution and absolution his neck and the round of his blades make. Now the coach stands loudly among his charges but has slunk from site from where he sidled up against the trunk of my hips for so long, now receded, ever in retreat. Give the wave, the signal. Hide behind semblance of distinction and cower before the potential exposure of the lie that dresses you up each morning. Yet your killing kindness and funny frailty draw my memories to the temperate comfort of forgotten forgiveness. No words. Peace.
There is one I call love. He hurts as he pleases me. She bites me in pieces. A love he breathes, a love she makes and yields herself up to me in dreams and waves, sound in my ear, words aglow in squares and rectangles. She is grounding. He is flight. The lover makes love look like me, a mottled mirror of sighs and sinews, curves and cleavage, spectral in flesh, shadows on the buckled sidewalk. My belly lies. She sighs my hair long and he paints my back sticky with tremor and strife. Love is the space between all lovers before me and all after, fractured air of glances at tight hip fallen jeans, fleshy bottom pouted lips, flaxen tress pressed between thumb and forefinger slowly, tenderly slide caressing down its unfurling curl, and the fisted palm wedged in the small of her back. Love is a show, lighting and lines, the scenes sketched out in canned laughs, calculated smiles and familiar illusion. He is burning; she is cool. Love is awakening to the twitch in his sleep and her loud snoring, and falling, falling back, eons wide into the night.
The hours tick for those who count time. The accountant gathers coin and accolades, robustly but modestly. His profession requires the precision of a blunt minded man, no curve and twist. And although his view is straight, his behavior upright and courteous, his walk is forward bent, apelike, avoiding the lines in the pavement, like the winging bat’s zig or the sidewinding cat’s zag, pursued by its predator. He knows what counts, what is common sensibly real and true, big with principle and beaten bullying fear, angry that the earth and its people take. “Give me mine, what’s my due,” he says, his selfish possessing, his devouring control, his treasuring sweets. His anger sparks in punishing heat, hollering at the rag tag here, pitching a glare at the ingrate there, yet he is shy and unassuming, a contrast of black and white, the paint of his world. But what tenderness of heart and gentle hand, huge and rough and soft. The caress of time spent quietly in arms, legs entwined, palms resting in scoop of neck and back, gentle sleep and whispers press colors deep for him and me. His brutal views and mad cries hushed, he is love simple and complete.
How hard the muscle, so soft and smooth the skin, so incisively clever intuitive, you are an athlete full of force and grace of mind and body. We sports trivialize and compete at who is harder, meaner, louder, sexier, smarter, and slyer. You reign supreme in common sense and creativity, order and sensitivity. I am leftover hippy revamped for today’s technology, loose and logged in. I don’t recreate with mind altering substances but I can float on ideas and imagery all the same. My fantasy life is rich, redolent undulating waves of mossy strip mall cleavages and triangulating leers and jeers of the popcorn parade, food for shower O pops. You are all strategy and plays while I am the measured field gain, your traversing prints enmuddied in my thighs, my neck and belly. You embody my thoughts with love in the unconventionally traditional setting, new passion colors washing out, layering upon the old patterned prints. You are never-before and stability too etched in ether, anchored air. Come hold my hand in your powerfully gentle grip a little while longer, silken sweat gluing our palms sealed open.
Looking through your lenses, I understand more of what a lover and friend can teach me. Truth is utile and optional. Relativism with a few random absolutes is one kind of philosophical disposition. In you, Love fills up space that would ordinarily be occupied by self, but you make it work, ever observing the landscapes, the news, the ideas and the bodies that drift in and out of your sight–a sharp-sighted information eater. The stars guide you, fodder for your scripted imagination, and bathe you in romantic light. You were my moon. But I too can look the other way, acutely envision my fantasies as reality. What floats about the surface–stuff–are so many words elegantly phrased and delivered, but honest action is all that you are. You serve, you pamper and please while imagining that there is no other that could possibly exist in the moment, a gifted actor, a reality maker. You pick up the pieces, are savior. You gave me so many tasty morsels, bits of what stays with me ever more–a gesture, a joke, an insight, a practice, an idea, a line, or a catchphrase. You opened mind doors, stoked my intellectual fires, elicited my sexual imagination, and slayed me with tag lines: there is an essential but painful pleasure in seeing myself being seen by the other, and I am but one of Shakespeare’s poor players among a boisterously ignorant audience. Always that layer of my heart-soul silently keeps.
A painter of sorts, you spend your days in a box, looking out the windowed cracks for someone to call. You know your name. Who else can see your colors? I have heard your reds, felt your yellows, and smoked your purples, just a few. You wave your mind, change your hands, flap your legs and all stop and wonder at your meaning but listen to your message, the canvas bleeding your worries, your anger, your love and hate. You hook me in with a gentle song, a soothing sacrifice of attention and vibration. The clouds clear a path for your art, but the sky suckles your life’s work, not your painting nor your song. For the ether contains your greatest achievement yet to arrive.