(This is the unedited version, penned I think in 2002, but I cannot now remember.)
how it was when we sped away
bandits in a get away - into a red-neck traffic jam,
all those laughing groomsmen
GOONSMEN! boxing us in, and forcing us to low ride
in a lurch parade
near on empty, even then.
As it is, Dennis
that righteous menace,
wired a horn
to our brake light.
We grinned and bore
the din and stare, hoping everyone would see
the streaming silly paper and the shaving cream.
We were good sports too:
We smacked lip, as strangers turned
first to frown, then to smile.
We honked our way into
each red light or curve
riding fumes to the station.
Remember those few awkward hours,
just before a dinner invitation for our evening.
(too few for breaking boundaries –
too many for our new permission.)
Silly me - I'd agreed to appease my
step-dad with a slide show of my travels
meant I guess, to impress our out of town guests.
Time that should have been ours
to talk, touch, or pray
whittled away against all these pictures
of a past life…
and a freedom I would never see again.
Later … when some guests
felt awkward for us and the pining hours
they pushed us out
into the unknown air;
My new apartment, with the new sheets
dressed for us.
And now … what to do?
We were tired to the bone.
Months of planning with a week of cram.
A big swirling wedding. A big swirling day.
Moments that would blur among the smiles
and the guests and cake
only to be made alive with photos.
(I know now why they take them --
Not so much to remember,
but to believe
that anything happened at all.)
So we arrived -
wed, licensed, and approved
to cross the threshold.
For a moment I faltered … May be we should go to sleep
I mean, really sleep.
We had waited decades, why not wait another night?
But you knew … some rituals
are not for breaking
so you sent me away, for the moment.
In a moment we would pray
Invite God to join us in the unknown
and the years ahead.
and I laid my head on you
and fell into the crest
of my worlds softest wave.
my Kerry, like your name - a high green meadow --
or …like a hidden island off the coast of Whales ..
all rustic and wild ….
We, tame Baptist or Presbyterian boys that we were,
spied your ramparts, draped under fog
But no boat had ever pressed your shore.
You called the wind aside, and bid me dock
I walked the Rolling hills, and Heather,
I felt my way along the path
of a sturdy land
that you had saved for me.
with water, hidden in the hill
and I cried out:
I didn't know.
I didn't know.
that next day
when we joined.
a clang of happy vultures at the table.
Our families had a legacy and recipe to guard,
we tried not to smile when they asked:
"So you like being married?"
(And we did.)
how it was, in that first week or month
all these forever first time things,
in an avalanche of newness.
It was kind of like being born, and seeing it.
Indeed, if something's going to be new …
Why not make it everything.
First time sheets
and first time dishes
first time popcorn popper
first time lead-crystal things that I just don’t get, even now.
first time to ever check into a motel and say …
“This is my wife”, and smile at the clerk.
Fist time shopping (would it have been our last.)
First time to hear, What is wrong with men anyway?
after having eaten two cheese burgers
out of single habit.
the Honey moon - two weeks of Westward Ho!
You sat with me so close
in something like a constant swoon.
Believe, it --- you did.
that small Texas Town--
We never really saw it, but I stood, like a Japanese tourist
under the interstate sign to GROOM.
Remember, trying to save bucks
in Austin, found the low-rent run of motels
left over from the great depression.
A quick whiff of curry and the sight of cigarette burned veneer
sent us of to better things.
Remember the concrete Tee Pees
and the way that the ground became all wide and hot
like something wide and hot.
the Arizona blue
that dropped into that grand vermilion absence.
Some other millions joined us on the rim
but when we slid beneath the skin
with backpacks, He could have dug it just for us;
this weird inverted mountain, like a garden
hidden in the moon.
As it is, you read somewhere that one should take
a gallon for every mile of back county hike,
so I portaged in a bathtub, while little old men
in tennis shoes
went whizzing down, then up as we lay panting on the trail
and I tried to think of written lines that went with
dying at the Pre-Cambrian.
how much harder, is the Up, than down,
and how we stumbled out near after dark
like we had been in rodeo – all bruised at the bone
and walking in our sleep,
Not even that could stop young love!
Remember our next days --
We headed north into the land of Utah
where everyone should feel
This place gets strange, the Grand is grand, but this
our cosmic treat … three cheers for all the folks who keep
Zion National Park something of a national secret.
Indeed, do you remember the flanks of Zion :
monoliths of muscle red, set like teeth in a ruby jaw.
We saw the lines of our topo-map converged
in vertigo --
the hills crack open – up and under
like and apple pulled apart
We camped with cramps upon
set atop a fertile precipice
of lunge and vibrant greens,
streams of weathered rock
cascading down like rusted trees.
At night, we stood above a
moon lit plunge where pines
grew like “j’s from the walls
and we looked down on
Remember too, our final day,
walking in between the halves of world.
They call this place the Narrows and it earns its name,
two-bodies wide at stream-bed with no shoulder to the side
and a quarter mile up
We shimmied waterfalls and waded waste deep through the trail;
walking back, you joined the water in a spill…
ten foot down and broke your ankle.
Four hours later
we emerged, you on the back of our new German friend Uve
after I fell with you three times.
In more ways than one.
Remember the months and years to follow, now compressed
and filled, with things in keeping
with a joy ride
through the low parts of heaven
or the high parts of hell.
Your womb opened to the world three times
bearing gifts from God above
we trembled at the blessing, even as we cursed
Remember (in no certain order)
When you let me choose, just before a rapid move?
I came back with a rat-hole rental
that I found on the run.
(will you ever let me forget?)
my first job out of college?
You worked to see me through, but after
several months of searching
I had to take what came.
When I didn't make the grade at Dispatcher
I wore a stupid little uniform and marked chalk on tires,
a man with a degree, giving parking tickets
to frat kids as I walked in the burn of the sun
and broken pride.
my first wanted job:
I would take photographs for the Southwest Times
of everything under sun
I would win awards and have a blast
as I wove in and out of worlds - The socialites
the social blights, the hallowed fights of teams
and the dreams that mark the march of a small city.
You would struggle
with the weight of kids,
and an ever-gone husband
And long hours of your own
in the stress of RN nursing,
that I would never know.
Remember the baby
that never slept (and still fights it)
she cried us half insane -
We rocked her like a metronome
or drove her all about the town
at 3 AM.
Remember the beautiful Ede .
Something of a ditto,
less red to the head,
and those eyes that looked like mine!
We called her the Queen of Erp
when she Baptized several
in the Sunday school.
Remember our third one;
Was she ever really young?
I remember a photo of her grinning
with hair sticking up electric,
she laughed even then, but somewhere
in the rush kid-hood memories of Anna –
stack and blur.
Remember the constant chirping chaos:
naked children jumping on the bed,
jelly in the carpet, children on the bread
children at our feet, children in our toes,
children ever yanking at our clothes
or wearing them … and
one dear child who would grab your nose
when she needed our attention.
Remember the dolls and broken Barbies
feet chewed away, headless
buxom plastic, lining the shower…
And an avalanche of clutter that collects about
kids like stolen sugar on the floor
Remember always working,
you at night or me by day
I traded every Saturday
for another chance at wedding bucks,
I’d come home to “this life sucks” --
my own melancholy bride.
Remember elusive pleasures,
stuffed between the daily grind
gifts of half digested food, held out
or flowers mixed with sticks,
the thunder of pots and tricycles, or
the discovery of the ever-new old-hat.
Remember the first worm or dog, or log, or waterfall!
Remember drawings on the wall.
And those presents … who could match them!
Remember how, something went wrong, for both of us.
Strained, pushed and pulled, You needed more
from me, but I had little more to give
I tried to meet your thirst for security
with work, but
you needed a friend and a heart and
more order than I could ever furnish ..
Remember how your anger started slow,
but built .. till it became like a fire
at the land-fill hill, ever pressing
ready to throw a St. Hellen's.
Remember how I hid or slid around the truth,
ever seeking your approval, but not willing
to earn it by being strong in
the places that you needed strength.
Remember (though, please -- not too well)
the night I flirted with the flames of Hell.
I’d seen some picture
in a magazine of religious art (Image):
A painting of stripper in a tavern.
(there, I guess, to address idolatry)
I bit the bait, mixed it with a little hate
and went to watched some dancing whores.
I hid my wounded eyes from you,
Not only then, but on those other nights
of irritated conscience,
standing at the “Y.”
I vowed inside myself to lie
come hell or high water.
(and it came)
Remember how we found ourselves
friendless, and worn.
You became the queen of scorn
And I, the king of lies.
Lie about the money, lie about the small,
lie about the grandest things,
sure to save myself from all
your immediate displeasure, only to find
you always found out anyway, and I built
distrust into every word I spoke.
And yet, we sill held on, some bizarre
Half our life in Christ, half out
using the heaven' words
even as we felt the hardness
climb into our very flesh
Remember, later how I lost my job ..
The neighborhood, the words ..
all those ugly ugly words.
What the -- honey, love, and hate
You’re a bastard, you are late …
You are just like Mr. Clinton.
Oh dear … If forgiveness means forgetting
something, I stop here.
I have never figured out how God, knowing --
Seeing all, and no less present in our past
than in our future - or the present;
finds in his knowing, forgetfulness.
But I will choose it now. To both know and forget
at the same time.
Forget about my (our) business woes
or the words, the angry
turbulent nights, or the fact that you can never
loose an argument
any strength in me as strength, but must tear it down.
I will choose to live without the pain
that I caused you, or you cause me.
And now a riddle.
Did my sins cause yours?
Or, did yours cause mine?
Or did we fall together, like something joined
that tried so desperately to part ..
The only thing I know,
No sin of mine
has ever NOT found its way to your eyes
Cocked, loaded, ready to kill.
But then, Sin is like insecticide
I spray the wind and eat the tainted fish;
Could it be, that the notion of “one flesh”
means what is says?
We are like some Siamese-twin of the spirit
and all my sins are sins against you, and me, and us
Concurrent. And however your sins rise
I bear the burden of this
our ravaged holy-mansion,
rooftop open to the storm
and the foul aftermath of war.
Remember, the Mercy of God.
Did he let us go so far, to see ourselves…
Or did he let us go so far, because we asked to go so far?
Did he mean to teach us patience, or of grace?
Why do other couples fold, when they seem to meet
with so much less,
and why do we find our healing now
with all our money in the bank of heaven drained?
the patience of God --
He could of placed us,
in a Swiss Cheese universe,
one bad step, and we
would plummet down some tube
into holes between the stars.
This is too much riddle:
He who knew no sin
knows so much of ours,
and will not leave us to
our own devices.
Did He merely stand aside and wait
or was he present with us,
even as we slathered
Jesus, how much do I really know you?
I know that you are king, and clean, and holy
But what about this side job
In the hog pen, wading in,
Holding us above the deluge as we
Rip, flail, and snort.
Whatever he does,
I know that,
we are tasting beauty
I see it in so many ways …small and large.
You, letting go of harshness or holding your tongue,
Me, letting go of lies and adulteries of the mind.
You, reaching out in kindness (sometimes even with your body)
Me, letting my pebble of a heart feel again.
You with a hunger for the word of God,
Me strong enough to stand up to you --
When you need it (sometimes)
Would it be that healing came in a freight train
But, (from the lyric of a song)
“You’ve come along way baby … It’s a long way back”
Or .. from an even better poem:
“How much harder is the up, that is the down.”
The prayers of parents
gifts from friends,
cleared business debts,
a cabin in the county, fit to produce envy in a monk
(our hermitage of healing)
a slow sense of community,
you back in church,
my first new job, and now a second …
that lets you stay
home, more of the time.
Children that obey (HA!)
or better yet, these children
that plummet our lives with pleasure
as they create without fetter.
If man is like a god, how much more so children
as they fearlessly design, or give
demand or forgive,
or even demand justice!
Remember now –
Cause it ain’t that far away.
we took these separate strengths
of spontaneity and order,
ease and moral rectitude,
pleasure in today, plans for tomorrow,
a touch of fun and sorrow
And crafted a new “man”
HA! (Can you believe it!)
how we lasted the years, learned to say
I love you,
Both in word and deed,
built a city for our kids
good for eternity.
daughters growing into women,
all these gnarly guys, and broken hearts
and dreams and promises,
our white knuckled nights,
the veils, the cakes, the kids
and some of the circle
all over again
(but we hope less – and more)
Speaking of tomorrow:
Remember when you said
(out loud and with words):
“I forgive you, for all the wrongs
that you have done against me
over these twelve years;
In fact, I plan to burn THE LIST,
and never to use the phrase
‘for the last twelve years’ again.”
Hey babe … you can do it.
By faith I remember.
I remember well.