Watermelon in Summer

I love my wife, just as much as I did on the day of our wedding, nearly seventeen years ago. Our anniversary is later this month.

I am not the world's greatest husband, to put it mildly. I do have my uses, however: for example, I carried in the monstrously large watermelon she bought at a local market yesterday. It looked like it had been grown by Hagrid.

Last weekend, she took some watermelon over to our oldest daughter's house and the two of them sat out by the pool and ate it. That daughter is expecting a little girl in about 7 weeks.

I'm beyond excited. We all are.

I've been thinking my life is too complicated, and I'm working through strategies to simplify it. There's a lot to it, but one aspect of it all is a different approach to my writing, one involving better discipline.

Integrity is about simplicity, in some ways, and that's what I want to cultivate.

When I got the watermelon out of the back of the car and into the house, I asked, "where do you want this?"

"Anywhere is fine," she said distractedly.

I stifled my immediate impulse to put it back in our bedroom.

Because I love my wife, just as much as I did on the day of our wedding, nearly seventeen years ago.

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

Dust-Up

My ex-wife and I considered arguing something of an art form. We prided ourselves on our ability to fight about absolutely anything, no matter how trivial.

We didn’t wait until we got married to start, either. We quarreled on our first date, bickered through our courtship, and squabbled through a year-long engagement. In a strange way, the least contentious part of the relationship was the divorce. Neither of us could be characterized as in any way “conflict averse” — at least at that point in each of our lives.

But times change, as do people. I have to argue (persuade, really) as part of my job, now. I do it, because it’s part of that career, but it has been years and years and years since I relished arguing with anyone. Spending my spare minutes away from work contending over minutiae is no longer my idea of a good time.

Nevertheless, these days, the Beautiful One and I end up doing a kind of weird reverse arguing that goes something like this:

“There’s one cupcake left,” she says, pointing a catering plate left from the baby shower. “You have it.”

“No, you’ve been running after the kids all day, you take it.”

“It’s yours, you’ve been working crazy hours, and I know we eat dinner later than you’d really like.”

“They had pizza brought in for an afternoon meeting today, and I had, like, five slices. I really shouldn’t even have dinner…”

“I already had a cupcake, and I really need to lose a few pounds; you’ve been to the gym every day…”

… and so on.

My wife and I literally argue about who can concede first before an argument starts.


Every Thursday night for the last seventeen years, the Beautiful One and I have a date night. It involves (ideally) dinner together, maybe a movie, lots of conversation to catch up on each other’s weeks, and as little distraction as possible. That means keeping conversations with other people to a minimum.

Our now-adult children know we have this date night, of course; however, the concept of what a “night” is seems to escape them; they feel like, if my wife and I went to dinner at 7:00 PM, for instance, we should be done with each other by 10:00 PM, whereupon she in particular should be free to have long conversations with them about whatever is on their minds.

Oddly enough, it is the married among my children to whom it never occurs that their might be things that occupy us that time of the evening. Or maybe that’s not so odd. I know there are things that most kids don’t like to imagine their parents doing, no matter how old those ‘kids’ might be.


Nothing in life turns out to be ‘ideal’, of course: whatever we plan, or imagine will happen, life just does what it does. We want to think we’re in control, but ultimately, the things we can control are few, nearby, and limited. Good times come, often in spite of us rather than because of us, and bad times come, no matter what we do to try and stop them.

My ex and I argued for sport because we were young, bored, and mismatched. My wife and I try hard not to argue; but, sometimes, reality happens, and the arguments that ensue are no laughing matter. Because ultimately, relationships are held together with very slight bonds, and we can fray and break them casually. When and if we do, there are arguments that must be had.

Oh, and by the way — that cupcake is still sitting there.

Online Friends Are Real Friends

I spoke recently to a friend who was going through an extremely trying time in her life. I felt (and feel) bad for her beyond my ability to express.

Online friends are real friends, I truly believe that. Confronted with an online friend in a heart-rending situation, however, the only options we can often offer them in the way of immediate comfort are in the “emoji” family: hearts, virtual hugs, gifs, and so on. These things are meaningful. However, when the situation is bad enough, sending them the same sad face you sent when they said they dropped their ice cream cone just seems wrong, somehow.

In real life, I’m not exactly the kind of person that people characterize as a “hugger”. Nevertheless, I have always (or at least since my teen years) been attracted to or attracted grieving people. I’m not entirely sure why. I hate parties and never was great at small talk; nevertheless, in a room full of revelers, I have for years been able to identify the other kindred spirits in the room who don’t belong.

Grief is a paradox in that it is completely individual, isolating the people who feel it, while simultaneously universal, in that everyone goes through it. We all despair in hard times; one element of that is the certainty that no one truly knows how we feel. But then, often, we find that people will do what they can for the grieving, the hurting, the lost. In the same way that “haters gonna hate,” “friends are gonna friend”.

So let them.

We all need friends, all the real friends we can get; and online friends are real friends.

 

(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
Grudgingly

Session 1

“So, why do you feel like you have to buy people’s love?”

I hate therapists. They are always asking questions like that.

“Strange question, given that I have to pay you to talk to me,” I say in response. He smiles, faintly, but won’t be deterred. He continues to look at me, fixedly.

“I don’t think I’m that different from many people, many men. My value to people is in what I can do, or provide. No one’s every liked me for my looks; I was never the guy women wanted to meet just seeing me. I had to impress them somehow. With age, though, I’ve gotten less impressive, so, money works better.”

He continues to look in my direction, encouraging me to keep going.

“My mother asked me the same question when I was nineteen. I had just bought a friend of mine an expensive going-back-to-school dinner. ‘Why do you feel the need to do that?’ she asked me. ‘He’s already one of your best friends.'”

“What was your answer?”

“I don’t remember really having an answer.”

“And you still feel the same way?…”

“Yes, and no. I’ve learned that no one gets appreciated by others quite the way they might want. That people with good looks want to be known for their minds. That people with steady loves want flaming inconstant passion instead; that people who play the field want permanence. We’re all insane, really.”

“Do you really think that last part?”

“That we’re all insane? No, I suppose not. Only if you compare our actions with our stated beliefs about what constitutes a good life.”

“Do you have a good life?”

“Yes, absolutely,” I say.

“Which brings me back to the original question: why do you feel you need to buy people’s love?”

Now it’s my turn to look at him. I take a long sip from the water bottle I brought with me.

“If I can help people, I will. It’s not so much buying love as showing it. People did it for me, when I was younger, and when I couldn’t possibly pay them back… Look, I know myself at heart, and I am as selfish as the next guy. All of us work from the same set of motivations, at least in part… I’m not trying to gain anything; I’m not trying to get in women’s pants, and I’m not trying to buy affection or whatever it was you said.”

He looked away from me, clearly unconvinced.

“Do you feel your illness makes you lesser than other people?”

“At times, yes.”

“Are you willing to accept help as easily as you give it?”

I could tell he thought he had me with that question by the slight smile on his face.

“Yes, actually. I don’t mind people doing for me, or giving to me. It’s not a power thing.”

“Hmmm,” he said, frowning slightly. “I think we’re at the end of this session.”

I take my keys and water bottle from off his table and rise to go.

“I want you to think this week about ways people show love,” he said, walking across to open the door. “Determine for yourself if you feel like you are always acting the most appropriate way for how you are feeling.”

“I’ll try,” I say, walking out into the reception area as he closes the door behind me. The receptionist looks up at me from the desk outside, her bright eyes showing even through her glasses, her dark hair shining under the fluorescent lights.

“What time are you coming by tonight?” she whispers.

Trois beaux oiseaux du paradis

"Three Beautiful Birds of Paradise"

Three beautiful birds of paradise
(My love has gone to war)
Three beautiful birds of paradise
Have passed this way —

The first was bluer than the sky,
(My love has gone to war)
The second was white as the snow,
The third was red as vermillion.

"Beautiful little birds of paradise –
(My love has gone to war)
Beautiful little birds of paradise,
What do you bring here?"

"I carry an azure blue-eyed glance."
(Your love has gone to war)
"And I must leave on a snow-white brow,
A kiss, even purer."

"You, red bird of paradise —
(My love has gone to war)
You red bird of paradise,
What are you bringing me?"

"A loving heart, flushing crimson."
(Your love has gone to war)
"Ah, I feel my heart growing cold . . .
Take that with you as well…"

Trois beaux oiseaux du Paradis
Mon ami z-il est à la guerre
Trois beaux oiseaux du Paradis
Ont passé par ici.

Le premier était plus bleu que le ciel,
(Mon ami z-il est à la guerre)
Le second était couleur de neige,
Le troisième rouge vermeil.

"Beaux oiselets du Paradis,
(Mon ami z-il est à la guerre)
Beaux oiselets du Paradis,
Qu'apportez par ici?"

"J'apporte un regard couleur d'azur
(Ton ami z-il est à la guerre)"
"Et moi, sur beau front couleur de neige,
Un baiser dois mettre, encore plus pur."

Oiseau vermeil du Paradis,
(Mon ami z-il est à la guerre)
Oiseau vermeil du Paradis,
Que portez vous ainsi?

"Un joli coeur tout cramoisi"
Ton ami z-il est à la guerre
"Ha! je sens mon coeur qui froidit…
Emportez le aussi…"