Feel ill, ill, feel so truly ill
The house of my imagination has walls
They go up in smoke
If you look at them wrong
Pots and pans pop and disappear
The front door has no mooring
The ladies on the couch
Analyzing, dabbing their mouths
They’re looking at you,
you’re not right
you’re not right
To let you know how mad I was at the time
I'll give you a bit of an anecdote, a scene from my life. This took place several months after graduation from the master's program. I was 27, or maybe 28—I'm not sure. In any case, I was on a flight from Philadelphia to Detroit. My younger sister was living in Michigan, attending law school, and I was flying in to visit her. On the flight I met two young boys. I say young. They were probably juniors in college. And I had a bit of fun with them. They treated me like the mangy, old cougar I was becoming and I treated them like the Ashton Kucher's of their time. We talked about their classes, their girlfriends, their favorite bands. We talked about my black hair, my long hair, my experience. We parried. They asked if I was on Facebook and I told them, no, but I did have a Myspace account. "Can we be friends?" they asked. "What's your name? I'll look you up." I told them what my profile name was—see this was during a time when Myspace was instituting privacy measures and lots of people were securing their profiles. You would click on someone's picture and a message would come up saying: This Profile is Set to Private. It was always a great disappointment. I kept my profile public and made my profile name "This Profile is Set to Who Gives a Shit". Also, you were supposed to have a quote on your home page and because everyone was freaking out about prospective employers peeking on applicants' social networking profiles I made my quote: "Don't hire me." Furthermore, my profile picture was a screen shot of a Blackberry Smartphone, with a game of Brickbreaker on its screen. I can't tell you how much that game meant to me. When I read that returning soldiers were being treated for PTSD with Tetris I didn't question it for a moment. So the boys 'friended' me and told me they loved Brickbreaker and we commented on one another's pages for a while, but as it goes, time wore on and our communiques dwindled and shortly thereafter for unrelated reasons, I defected from Myspace.
A lot I don’t remember. But when I do.
I remember you.
We were there. We two. You and I. We were
On the ice, in shoes. The second freeze of winter. Not even winter
Not yet. We’d been at a bar. The Uptown. Sitting in a booth.
You and your date. Me and my ghost.
There’d been a man. A tall man. A dark man. An old man.
Your date was a young man. Which is to say. Our age.
We walked down 31st. Down the wooden staircase. Down to the water’s edge.
And we slid along in darkness.
There was a lot going on in my head when I decided to write this. And now I am empty as a bell. I am skipping from nothing to nothing, hoping I will land on something that makes me stop and draw in my breath, something that makes me wind my engine and start again.
Outside the café there are two dogs trotting in circles around the patio. They are the size of small children and more precious. They approach without timidity. Their ears fold in soft fur between my fingers. We look at one another, our dark eyes carving something into space, then at the cars passing down the street. Then back again.
In my dream last night I held a baby, only a few weeks old. He had something in his eye and my mother was trying to get it out with a soft cloth. Gently, but with purpose. She was using mother-skills. I was looking at him, thinking, I am going to protect you for the rest of my life. I am going to keep you safe. Thinking, my love for you is boundless.
There is this too little known poet who lived in Loring Park in Minneapolis. He wrote a poem called "Sobbing Uncontrollably in Public Places." In the last stanza he says, of course any young poet should be able to describe a room, a few pages of blue ink in a spiral notebook. Any young poet should be able to describe a room so poignantly it makes your eyes wet and you continue reading with heavy sighs.
Sometimes, when I have trouble sleeping I picture the times of my life. I think of them as if they were real and present. I unfold a day or a phone call, a mid-afternoon drive through downtown Saint Paul, or a winter night running home. I feel the print of someone's hand at the bottom of my back and the smell of coffee in the earliest part of the morning. I picture the way someone looked at me when they were happy with me. And unhappy. I think of a day I crossed the Washington Avenue bridge reciting a poem that ends: Learn from this. Learn from this. Learn from this. Then I fold it all up and put it away.
And it has begun to rain. And the world is wet. And I am talking in my sleep.