Poetry

Image from EdgewoodFloristOfOrlando.com

Tenderness

I.
Sometimes I caught you
looking at me during lunch
in New York—
with something indescribable
in your olive eyes. Tenderness?

It made me blush. But I may
have misinterpreted you, since my
strength has always been in academics
and never in flirting.
The ability to flirt,
which everybody seems to have,
never developed in me,
which frankly at this age,
is embarrassing.

I ignored your surreptitious glances.
But secretly thrilled, I continued with
the conversation.

II.
It’s too late now even to talk.
In fact, I don’t want to talk.
Past pain got in the way, and I said things
I didn’t mean that made you groan and
protest–and rightfully so.
I am deeply offended with myself.

III.
A terrible shyness and shame have
overtaken me, and I want to be mute.
I elect to be mute.
That way I am no longer my own worst enemy.
The moment has passed.
There’s nothing else I can say to unravel
the tangled knot I created between us.

IV.
The moment
has passed, and I have work to do.
I have giraffe fossils
to catalogue;
miles to walk every
blue dawn;
nightmares of dying dogs to conquer;
squally dragons to destroy;
simple words to write,
adult conversations to have,
autumn leaves to collect,
and coffee to plant
once I return home.

But sometimes, I have to admit—painfully and
privately to myself—
that when I pass Harvard Square’s only flower shop,
I think of you,
and smile to myself;
And I remember how you
bought me a bouquet made of only purple flowers
that early, frosty morning,
after we had stayed up all night talking.
I smile to myself,
even though I know—for sure—
you haven’t thought of me ever since
New York.

Image from weheartit.com

At Night

Every night,
I make a fort in my bed.

I have five pillows;
I line four of them around me
Each one pointing in one cardinal direction.
The last one I use for holding on, so I don’t fall
off the Earth, because I know how close I am
to that actually happening if I’m not careful.

I settle on my side
Facing the curtainless window;
Always looking at either the moon, stars, or
lilac night clouds;
Maybe because one day I’ll see you
Up there
Or
Maybe because one day you’ll see me
Down here.

I grip the last pillow and hold on tightly as
I repeat a long line of lamentation prayers I learned as a child,
And I continue importuning whatever is out there
Spread out generously but silently
Like spilt blue glitter in an art classroom
Across the stardust
The moondust,
The planets and the planetoids and the planetesimals,
The asteroids,
Our Sol and Carl’s billions and billions of stars,
The comets,
The other worlds,
The galaxies and their neighborhoods,
The black holes with their Hawking radiation
Leaking information no one can read nor understand
of an ever-expanding Universe with no edge
Watching us all, up there, down here, sideways.

And sometimes, as I’m finally falling asleep,
I hear my bedroom door open a crack;
Gently, modestly, quietly, like you used to do.
I live alone but I am not afraid.

I am relieved.

And I hear your paws pitter-patter softly into my room
Sounding like soft rain on the pine-wooden floor,
Being careful not to wake me up even though
I am awake, or think I am.

And I feel you jump into my bed, into my fort,
Pad gently across the mattress until you find my back,
And after circling four times
And doing some canine calculus
A million times faster than Deep Blue could,
You let yourself plop down, unceremoniously but
Perfectly, your spine aligned with mine.

And then you let out a contented and satisfied sigh, 
Like you always did.
Like you’ve always done.
Like you always do.
Until my own day comes.


 

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