Crème Brûlée

I’d never had a taste. I thought I’d try
A different sort of thing, another way.
I saw it on the menu, so I said,
“The coffee, please, I think. And crème brûlée.”

He brought it to my table in a bowl,
Or shallow plate, or something, I don’t know.
Out on the road, and eating there, alone,
A book to read, and no place else to go.

The waiter took a type of torch to it.
He’d sprinkled something on it first, a bit
Of sugar maybe. Then the thing was lit –
It flamed, he put fruit on it. Like a skit.

It’s taste was fine, but in my memory
Performance art was what it seemed to be

(Another) Last Piece

Sometimes, you write something, and hit “Publish”, then an hour later, you decide that it’s the worst thing you’ve ever written, possibly with the word “you’ve” removed.

You mean that doesn’t happen to you?

That happened to me yesterday. Hence, a new post under the same photo, and with a similar title to the original, now destroyed, piece.

When I was first divorced, before my (now) wife and I started dating, I dated, consecutively, three other women. The last of the three was the strangest relationship I was ever in. It didn’t last but about two months, and it coincided with me doing about three months of therapy to sort through issues surrounding the divorce.

I’ve decided to write about that time here, every Monday, for as many Mondays as it takes. My desire to write about it is to some degree because the issues identified about me during therapy at that time have cropped up again recently.

The names of the people involved have been changed, as is always true on my blogs. Hell, half the time, the events are changed, too, and the outcomes. But I’m trying to recount the truth here. And the truth, frequently, sucks.

Looking back on that time, I feel disappointed in myself beyond my ability to describe. Disgusted with myself, really. In keeping with that mood, I wrote a short fictional piece yesterday about a woman who finds out what a scum her husband is. It involved pecan pie.

It, too, sucked, and didn’t even have the benefit of being real, or truthful. It was more just a reflection of how I was feeling about myself when I wrote it.

My complete inability to keep my feelings about irrelevant matters from spilling over into my writing is one of the reasons I became a poet. I look at poetry – and it is admittedly just one view of poetry’s value – as a realm where neither rules of syntax nor emotional nor logical coherence need apply. Which is pretty much me.

I also realize that, when the actual facts about my own life are laid out, it does not lead most people to conclude the same things I have from the circumstances concerned. Hence, I write far more coherently about other people’s feelings, which almost always make more sense to me than my own.

Last week, my sister let me know that my favorite teacher from high school had died. She was our neighbor growing up as well, and person number one I always think of in terms of me “paying it forward”, because she did so much for me that I could not pay back at the time: jobs, food, money, sympathy.

She and her husband and sons were all very tall people (she was about 6 foot 3), but lived in a very compact old house. In their kitchen, she always had sweetened sun tea, and whole meals and desserts ready to serve to whomever might come by.

She was originally from West Virginia, but had met her husband in Alaska, before ending up in Florida where we knew her. She taught a lot subjects, but I remember her best for teaching Humanities.

She loved jokes and puns, which made me a favorite student of hers, because I’ve been a random pun generator for as long as I can remember. There used to be a genre of puns called “Tom Swifties” where the joke was always structured to be in the adverb, as follows:

  • “This soda has gone bad,” he said flatly.
  • “We should go camping, she said intently.
  • “What was Stallone’s nickname again?” he asked slyly.

… and so on.

I used to generate pages of these things to give to her, for no other reason than to see if I could do it. She would then read them to other classes, which greatly lessened my already non-existent high school popularity.

She loved literature, and poetry, and plays, and music; since I did, too, that was another point of connection. She got me my first piano playing job (at the church her family attended).

I last saw her a couple of years ago when I was in Florida to visit my elder son. She seemed the same as always I’d known her: tall, energetic, jovial. Even in the face of overwhelming sadness at the untimely death of her younger son, she radiated a sort of universal love.

And the pie and the tea were still delicious.

A little house
Near Lion’s Park,
Just up the hill
From where kid’s voices ring
As they swim in summer

A garden and a fig tree
In the back

A house filled up with
The smell of books
And hospitality

A kitchen stocked
With meals prepared
And frozen, ready to be
Served to whomever
Might happen upon the door

A house where
Every inch of space was used,
Not cluttered, but
Not wasted, either

Love, as though
From its original source,
Poured out in tall glasses,
And where the last piece of pie
Was never given

Rainbow Colors: Indigo

There was a fish pond in front of the Episcopalian Church down on the beach where we were to be married. We were headed there, under a bright September sun, for pre-marital counseling. Being a few minutes early, we stopped to look at the beautiful fish. It was a very bright day, the white sands reflecting the sun from every direction.

Father Ed’s study looked out on the water; he greeted us and motioned us to chairs. I’d always liked Father Ed. He was very direct. He impressed upon us the long-term nature of marriage. He asked a lot of questions; and since both of us liked to talk, he got answers.

At one point, I stood up and walked over to his window. There were a few palm trees and some white rocks.

The day is white and indigo
The years are long and can’t be known;
For all we have’s the pond we swim
As distant (maybe) sails are somewhere blown

It was September, again, six years later, and raining hard. I sat out on the carport, watching the water deluge down the driveway and into the street. I saw her car round the corner on to the street and pull into the empty space in the two car carport. I walked around to get our three year old son out of the safety seat in the back of the car. She didn’t get out of the car, or roll down her window, she just spoke to me without turning her head:

I’ll be in Europe for three weeks. I’ll try to call at night when I can. I left a number at the office I can be reached at if there’s an emergency.

He was asleep in my arms. I closed the car door, and she pulled back out into the rain.

The world is dark and indigo
But for you than me;
I hold you sleeping in my arms
And wish that I could spare you from
A pain you never caused

It was a Saturday afternoon in April of this year that my now-wife told me a young couple was coming over for premarital counseling. I was spending the day writing, so I told her I would be in the back room. It was a bright beautiful day, and it reminded me of the day I had gotten premarital counseling before my first marriage, all those years ago.

The young couple came: they were both nervous and excited. I slipped back to finish my writing, hearing them leave several hours later. After that, my wife left to go to see her mother, and I, having noticed that bright colors had appeared out in the yard, walked out back to take in the view.

I stand there, realizing: for someone like me, if I could not actually see colors like these, I could not possibly imagine them. Even for those of us who cultivate our imaginations (and many of you do so to a far greater degree than I do) life is largely a series of unimaginable happenings, things far beyond the little ponds we think we’re trapped in. I never could have imagined getting married, or having a child, or getting divorced, or getting remarried, or the life I live now.

I hope I’ve learned some humility through all of this: for what I thought I knew, I didn’t, and what I thought was important, largely wasn’t. So the same might be true now. I can only do the best I can to add whatever colors I am here to add.