The Quiet One I Watch Over

It wasn’t easy telling her how I felt used and taken for granted,

all the while fighting self-judgment for sounding needy and guilting.

Do I tell her how I feel, even though there’s nothing she can do about it,

especially knowing that she will feel she has to do something about it?

Do I just silently accept our condition–she not relating to me, not

wanting to be with me, me wanting to be with her but not knowing how

to reach her, make her happy, engaged and connected?

She needs my money, advice and time.

She needs my permission, approval and signature.

I pay for whatever she wants and requires.

I take her where she must go, pace the sidelines and cheer her on,

encourage her, give her feedback and teach her how to live now and beyond us.

We make each other laugh and share sharp wit and sardonic smiles.

She seems appreciative for us, for all we are and do.

No one writes a more heartfelt loving, grateful text.

I don’t doubt her love, she not mine either, I hope.

She’s neither unhappy nor oppressed, just disinterested.

Tied in obligation knots, we–without violence, anger or volume–co-exist,

each with our silent confusion, angst and helplessness, resentment perhaps.

If she could only speak her mind.

Is it bullying to speak mine, a unilateral outpouring inevitably producing reactive

toxic anxiety or worse yet, guilt?

If she would shout, complain and demand, I would know what to do.

But quiet responsibility-assuming aimed at relieving me burden, one fewer needy time-taker,

a sign she’s stepping independently aloof into burgeoning adulthood, leaves me flustered.

No one wins, even when we’re not vying for an upper hand or competing in a contest.

As our relationship gestates, becomes what it will be for years to come, then changes

again, waiting, speaking and abstaining are the hardest parts.

Just one more of the many skills, mothering this one, I may never master.
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Never Saw You Coming (Yes I did)

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NEVER, no

I never expected you, never saw you coming, not at all,

but there you were, wearing all the wrong clothing:

horizontal striped collared button down shirt, like

colored bands ringing a thick, redwood tree trunk.

Middle aged folk fallen prey to time and gravity

don’t wear bold-colorful advertisements to widening

perimeters, especially for one with no boundaries,

sexually speaking, of course, not morally or politically.

And logo’d button down polos reek conservative bean 

counter, occupation-ally bound to count kisses, time and

orgasms, sans deductions for the unholy of holies among the

fiscally, vaginally vigilant.

And there I was, a raven, coated and shiny like wet ink newly

splotched on your parchment paper computer screen, dark

and waiting to be lit, turned and transformed beyond the

shadowy picture created in your imagination, confessions

and slick-wicked liquid words sliding thick viscous

through your keyboard fingers, just like we wrote, painted

pictures in sentences spelling out, enumerating, if you

will, voracious mimicry, want and want some more, only not

wanting all that just can’t have, not then, not now, but

something else arose, grew from our impossibility, your

straight laces strung tightly, fronting the devilry in your

daydreams, drooly lasciviousness set free, not freely given.

Yeah, we really did it for each other, whatever it was that

needed doing, and still do to both no one’s and yet everyone’s

surprise, including us who love so much so little of the

time, no time all the time, we who live separate lives

lived in broad daylight secrecy, while we storybook

pieces and patches of once upon a time we were other

people than we are and were then who could be us now.

You often ask, “Who knew you’d still be around?” And

“How could I have known? I didn’t see you coming.”

No, we didn’t see each other coming but we sure do now.

I want to be Esther Perel

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She is just so cool and says everything I need and want to say.

Commenting in Salon last month on Beyoncé’s Lemonade video that grapples, in part, with her cheating partner (“I know you’re cheating on me.”), Esther Perel in the article titled “Grief sedated by orgasm, orgasm heightened by grief”: Beyoncé, “Lemonade” and the new reality of infidelity“, applauds the singer’s frankness and platform used to plunge the public into the taboo infidelity, a conversation which Perel believes should be opened repeatedly. In fact, she believes that’s her job as a therapist and author–to help couples find themselves and their options past the ravine that betrayal opens between partners.

After noting the European and American moralistic difference in how couples suffer infidelity, she suggests Americans need to lose the strictures on discussion and judgment of both perpetrator and victim (think Hillary Clinton for staying when she could have left), which shames and thereby stifles examination of and learning from infidelity to repair,  renew or reject relationships shattered by infidelity.

After profiling American attitudes about the subject, she exhorts:

Given this reality, it’s time for American culture to change the conversation we’re having about infidelity—why it happens, what it means and what should or should not happen after it is revealed. The subject of affairs has a lot to teach us about relationships—what we expect, what we think we want, and what we feel entitled to. It forces us to grapple with some of the most unsettling questions: How do we negotiate the elusive balance between our emotional and our erotic needs? Is possessiveness intrinsic to love or an arcane vestige of patriarchy? Are the adulterous motives of men and women really as different as we’ve been led to believe? How do we learn to trust again? Can love ever be plural? 

These are important questions to begin the healing and ensuing path in any relationship that is pierced with this not always fatal rending. As Perel states, infidelity has existed longer than marriage, though she does not justify it as right for having lasted. She merely points to the reality of its persistence.

And just as Beyoncé is fire and ache, Perel is compassionate logic and measured reason, which is her (both) allure.

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All the king’s horses

  

She loved horses. 

Everything about them 

from their velvety lips 

to the wisdom burnt black into their eyes. 

Her childhood memories of horses never left her until…

He told her that night he left 

with only a duffle bag and a tennis racket, 

he was not one of the king’s horses or men, 

and she was no Humpty Dumpty, 

though she surely needed fixing.

Weekly Coffee: deep trout

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Credit:http://melodieperrault.bigcartel.com/

“I adore looking down at his face, his mouth and chin wet with my pussy,” she sighs.

An unmistakeable internal wince triggers the 20-second rapid-fire movie reel of analysis playing before my mind’s eye: 

“Why the discomfort at glimpsing a peek into her fucking? It’s not like I’m intruding. Certainly I have outgrown my culturally infused hang-ups about nudity and pleasure long characterized as pornographic guilt sources. And the word “pussy” ceased to make me bristle decades ago, ” I muse.

She and I confess daily details hidden from the public in the corners and crevices of our lives each week for years now. “From whence does this auto-shame come?” I hear a feigned British accent ask inside my head. 

I watch her circle her hollow straw round the inside of the half empty mocha blended drink she seemingly speaks into. Her fingers are long, delicate and deceptively thin for how strong they are. I have seen them finger guitar frets and forcefully rip out knotted laces of a five year old’s shoes with ease. And her lips belong to a much younger woman, half her age, the way they remain stained pink-naked like the color of her fingertips after strumming that guitar. 

The rolling analysis halts at the sound of her voice.

“But he still can’t make me cum.”

Shaking my head, “After all these years…?”

“I know, right? You would think he could figure it out. Of course I don’t give him much help finding his way. I give hints like it’s some sort of treasure hunt or game of you’re-getting-warmer…put your finger here, circle like this, now move here… but I lose interest when the whole lesson becomes teachy and disruptive to the flow. I prefer to masturbate for cumming and leave the loving to him.”

“Hmmm…” I intone. Funny how we parcel the sides of ourselves out like that, almost a division of labor delegation to those who specialize according to training and capability. Who is more trained at knowing a body than its long-exploring owner? And it’s far greater, multiply abundant, to love physically with another than alone. 

“How ’bout dem Ducks,” she mocks, and we’re off to more surface ground.
 

In the Afternoon

central park

The way we make heads spin, yours and mine,

gyro-scopic, demonically bone-mind entwined,

two dizzy dabblers in the kind and physical arts,

like the moon-lit chase one night in central park,

sleeved knife steel shiver your pace emboldening,

as I dodged trees and cats, tree’d cat spit-hissing

like mongrel mad dogs, mad-dashing as we were

half naked, stumbling drunk, gamboling jig curs;

where that night ended and this afternoon began,

I cannot unwind the tale, follow the threads’ end,

twist-tied in silent slept breath now we’ve become,

once more, one more lie, one last undoing, un-done.

 

 

 

 

No Empathy: Short-term Relationships (an eavesdropper’s delivery) 

 

 
Shit or get off the pot, my mom always said. Well, I’ve taken enough shit. I’m getting off by telling him off. I mean, who the fuck says he loves someone and then fails to show up at an important event as promised and then nonchalantly excuses himself with some lame-ass story. Unbelievable. 

–Did he know he was supposed to be at this wedding for a long time or some last minute invite by you?

No, for fuck’s sake! He got the same invitation I did a few months ago! He’s known forever!

–Oh.

He offered to come all the way to my house to pick me up so we wouldn’t have to take two cars. That’s at least a half hour out of his way, since the church is north of his apartment and I am way south. He knew as of last Wednesday when we made these plans.

–What was his excuse?

He claimed his mom called him in a panic about losing her driver’s license and was frantic about it. He had to go help her.

–What? That IS lame.

Right? Especially since his stepdad is there to help.

–Sounds like he just didn’t want to go this wedding.

That’s what I think. And these are good friends of ours, so he knew it was important for me to go. (Smiling) You know how much I love a good party too. There was an open bar and everything.

–So did he find the license for his mom? 

I don’t know. I was so mad at him I hardly listened. He might have said they couldn’t find it.

–Wow, that’s kind of shitty. How could he justify letting you down for something so stupid. Does his mother drive to work?

No, she doesn’t work. She retired from an 80k a year admin job after she couldn’t do it any more because of memory loss. 

–Oh, how sad. Alzheimer’s?

No, she had a slow carbon monoxide leak in the stove of her apartment she lived in for ten years. Apparently it destroyed her memory. Permanently.

–Oh shit, that’s terrible! I mean, is she like severely brain damaged or just slightly impaired?

No, she is totally fucked up. She appears normal, but she forgets everything she just did or said. It’s short term memory loss. Well not everything, but she forgets a lot. And it makes her anxious and paranoid. 

–How old is she? 

She’s 75. 

–Is she healthy otherwise? I mean is she a frail 75 or a strong 75?

She just had a heart attack and a stent put it in her groin to help her circulation. She is much better now. Says she can think a little more clearly. You wouldn’t even know she has a memory issue other than she is slow talking, a little, and seems spacy. But she is fearful as fuck when she can’t remember something she knows she should or loses something…like the driver’s license. She gets herself all worked up.

–Which couldn’t be good for her heart. 

No, she’s supposed to be on meds to help her mellow out, get rid of the anxiety but she forgets to take it. 

–Well, isn’t her husband any help? 

No, he’s like 86 and on his way out. Ironically, she is his caretaker.

–Are you fucking kidding me?!!

Yeah, it’s crazy.

–Does she drive? Is she able to?

Well yeah, but she gets lost.

–That is a goddam tragedy waiting to happen.

Right? And yet she won’t let her own son take them in. I mean Terry’s a great guy for that. He wanted to get help for them, put them in a senior living place, really nice community, or just take them in himself, which would have totally sucked the life out of him, suck for us. But she’s too fucking stubborn and would rather just have him at her beck and call whenever the slightest thing happens. 

–Holy fuck, Karen! You can’t be serious?!  When did you get to be such an asshole?

 

credit: wikihow.com

Some Like it Rough

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Speaker 1 (Sitting at the end of the bar with an open palm propping up her chin, her long wavy auburn hair flanks her shoulder down the arm supporting her head and disappears under the bar. She appears to be in her late thirties with lean, defined arms and angular jawline. I cannot see her face): He says he wants to be a good man but just doesn’t know how. His anger overruns everything. He never got used to being denied, anyone telling him ‘no.’ It still strikes him like a punch to the gut. “No-POW!” As if his brain fires bullets to his fists on the command “No.” A reflex just like Pavlov’s dogs.

Speaker 2 (Facing Speaker 1 and sitting upright in her bar stool, her platinum shoulder length blonde sort of long bobbed hair framing her face in manufactured swooping S curves, maybe from a curling iron. Her make-up is drawn on tastefully, painted in long black lashes, heavy heather brown arc’d brows and smooth sandy color coated foundation. Her shoulders are set back, making her spine arch convex. She’s far too lithe to be a Marilyn Monroe knock-off, but she is a slender bosomy silhouette of her or perhaps early Madonna): Send him my way. I like an angry dude, full of piss and vinegar, strutting himself like God’s gift. I know how to handle those types.

Speaker 1 (Sitting up straight now, eye level with her bar companion, her thick hair drapes down her back stopping short of her waist): No, not like this guy. He isn’t just arrogant or confident, “strutting” like you say; he’s mean and borders on violent. He once grabbed my arm to make me stop walking away from him, and it felt threatening, more than firm, more like in the gripping with force range. We’re not even involved with each other romantically. I mean, what is that all about? I only know I was uneasy about it. Not so much scared as we were in a public place, but it did give me pause.

Speaker 2 (Shrugs, her head veering slightly to the left as her shoulders rise trying to meet the dangle of her earrings, something sparkling when the dim light hits them at an angle): I like it a little rough. Give him my number. 
 

The Lover’s Monologue

  
I could have written all those fucking 7,8,9 or 100 ways to save your marriage articles. I tried everything I read for decades.

How many relationship “experts”, writers and doctors preach honesty and openness? How many times in 20 years have I opened my heart to her, told her my hopes and dreams, listened to hers, answered her most probing questions about what turned me on or off, what she needed in bed…I tried. It was so hard to be honest, despite her insisting. I didn’t want to hurt her. I knew my words would hurt her. The truth hurts.

What she didn’t tell me, probably didn’t know herself was that she couldn’t handle hearing what she wanted to know. Early in our marriage she would ask me about my fantasies, first like it was a game, like she was being cute about it. And when I refused to tell her, she got irritated and moody. 

But I was embarrassed and it was hard to talk about. It was extremely uncomfortable and felt a little dangerous, like exposing my weaknesses. After a while I think she was driven by this thing, this idea of something I was holding back from her, and demanded to know what I fantasized about–she wanted it in the name of honesty. While it was important to be honest, I also knew some things just needed to be kept to myself. I resisted hard.

But she was clearly disturbed about me keeping something from her, so I gave in. When I told her some of the things I got off on masturbating in my younger days…and occasionally afterward, she got quiet, then distant and then hurt. I watched it happen, the changes cross over her face like a quick moving time-lapsed eclipse. 

She wouldn’t talk about it for a long time. And when she did, she tearfully confessed she couldn’t do what I wanted. She didn’t like anything that might be painful and then it got so messy because I told her I didn’t actually want these things from her, which was the right thing to say but she took it wrong like I wanted it from someone else or didn’t think her capable; it broke down from there into silence and brooding anger. 

Just one of the many breakdowns and resentments that collect and heap up over time.

Be open and honest. Right. How much is too much honesty? Not enough? This is the person I chose to share everything with, who I counted on to build me up not tear me down for what I think or say. I always felt she was on my side and wanted what was best for me. I still do. But there is a slow but steady growing crack widening in us we can’t seem to repair. 

There were other misunderstandings that ended in injured feelings, both of us shut down and protective of our own. She casually mentioned one too many times that the company should give me more time off, more pay, more respect, just more of… what?  What SHE wanted? Was she defending me or looking out for her own interest? 

It’s degrading to be reminded you don’t make as much as you should or have as much as you deserve. She doesn’t know. She doesn’t work there. There’s a sense of how things operate, something she couldn’t know. And for someone so sensitive, it’s downright insensitive not to know how that burns. 

Now I sound like her with the mindreading. She should know…I should know…No, I should have told her how that humiliated me. Not angrily but calmly. But then…I’d been burned so many times by that whole honesty thing before.

My head just spins with this shit. No wonder so many of my college buddies weren’t too keen on getting married any time soon, preferring sex, partying and freedom. Funny, how I judged them then as shallow. Maybe they in their blind denial intuited the danger, all the pitfalls of relationships going long, going stale, expecting too much, tolerating too little…I just chalked them up to chickenshits. But maybe they were right.  

And yet I couldn’t imagine life without her. Too painful. The struggles you suffer and overcome, my dad described as the ups and downs of marriage: “it ain’t easy but it ain’t that hard either.” Yeah? Seems pretty damned difficult sometimes. It’s fucking hard! 

Then again, it’s harder to give up…until there’s nothing to give up, like knowing when you’re bested or outdone, checkmated. There’s no point in trying. Until then, you just keep figuring it out.

Wisdom?

 
 
It’s the nature of the beast.

To demolish all creative thought in a cliché, say

the sentence out loud without pause.

Don’t question it; don’t sneer. Don’t ask:

Does it mean surrender, resignation, acceptance,

withdrawal, wisdom, abidance or indifference? 

You already know the answer.

Code for trade-off, the things that cannot change

not by will or effort, not by demanding, wishing, 

hoping, foot-stomping, screaming, crying or praying. 

Laziness, perhaps, or exhaustion, one preceding

the other, most likely, at intuiting the insurmountable.

 
He’s always late, never checks his messages when

he’s made a date to meet me, and snores so loudly

most nights I can’t sleep, and counts on my inability

to hold on to anger time after time, til I wonder

if he’s just playing me, holding me down, keeping me

in the invisible stockades of pilloried complaints,

usual ones like taken for granted and love me enough.

 
“Look, if you want something bad enough,” my mother

always said, “you’ll find a way to get it and keep it.” 

That nearly always sounded like truth, like something

right out of the good book of cause and effect and

Newtonian physics or the natural laws of divine free will

or perception–on the little brain bits we have to depend.

The whole a-will-a-way combo, the tritest of them all.

Except how do I know if I have accepted in wisdom, peace 

and knowledge what I cannot change, made a fair exchange 

or simply ducked and run without a step in the face of the 

inevitable, my presumed conclusion befitting the fatigue 

of too many, just too many reasonable compromises?

“Better not to ask,” she’d sometimes say.