I was born in a red brick hospital
when doctors still came to the house
and nurses were nice older ladies of 35.
The town was small but large
enough for us to play together
while our parents had coffee
without worrying who had invited whom.
Good things, happy things went on then.
The proud men worked the plants
while our mothers made our homes
and no one said either was the lesser.
I grew up in this believing the life was endless.
Then the town got big and the people shrank.
Concerns became fears and fears reality.
Today I saw a bulldozer destroy the old hospital.
It was many years too late to do any damage.
There is a train beyond my window tonight.
Far away it is, too far to hear the wheels.
Only the whistle calls lonely in the night,
Reaching me here in my exile
From who I should have been.
How I wish I were among the passengers
Bolting through the night aboard a
Fate that couldn’t be derailed by foolish choices
Or missed opportunity…or fear.
Sliding past the landscape in the night
Sure of arriving where you belong.
In my memory I feel the sharp edges of
My Broken dreams and recall the times
When the train that carried me was still on time.
That was then, now I lay awake and listen
To the whistle in the night and imagine
What might have been.
I slumped into my friend the chair and
Waited for sleep to carry me away somewhere
While reruns reinforced my nightly monotony.
Then the first wind of autumn ran ahead
Of its due date and rattled my windows rousing me.
I raised up and killed the tv.
Soft amber lamp light filled the room
And I could hear the low roar of the lake
Rolling under the wind.
I got up and opened the door to the deck
Then closed it behind me.
The wind carried the lake up to me
While the constellations danced through
The moonless sky.
The glow of Port Stanley rose from
The far horizon, between us one of the last
Boats of the year struggled against the
Wind and waves, making for Detroit.
The moment pulled me out of myself
My name was lost, my hopes and desires meaningless;
I became the smallest part of the endless night
Whose purpose was to be no more than this.
But the chill is more at home here
Than a human trespasser;
It drove me back toward
The mediocrity that sustains me.
One last look across the lake
Wondering if a Canadian stands on his
Deck wondering about me…
Her face was an indifferent mask
As I questioned her about
The child she was surrendering.
She confirmed the neglect
As if she forgot to feed a dog.
We went on together playing
The unfeeling ***** and the annoyed
Young lawyer feeling the power
Of who he thought he was.
The questions narrowed and
She fidgeted, then squirmed, then
A few tears leaked and the boy
Playing lawyer woke up
When he saw what I was doing
And how I was doing it.
He fought me with thoughts of
Our mother, and pity, and mercy;
But the lawyer had to continue
Even if his voice lost the condescension.
He went on as the girl playing *****
Began to sob then fell apart
When she said, “Yes,”
The boy became a man
Who has never forgiven the lawyer.
I knew he wasn’t there, but I had to stop
Tried to drive by. Couldn’t do it
So I pulled up to the glass wall he sat behind
All those years in exile from what
Should have been his and looked in to see
Where he’d been the last time I spoke to him.
No surprise, he wasn’t there just shock
He’d never be again.
They hadn’t taken his things.
His glasses were still there and car keys;
A picture of his kids.
Business cards with his picture.
I went in pretending he’d walk in from
Somewhere in the back and say hello
Then tell me to get a haircut like he always did.
He didn’t walk in..
“No gots,” he used to say
When something didn’t happen.
No gots anymore.
He’s gone and he took a part of me with him.
But I took one of his cards
Just in case I need some advice.
He sends us here for a moment
When the best of us burn with desires and needs
And the drives to light the world.
Others hang back in the dark,
Content with the anonymity of the blackness,
Comforted by letting leaders lead;
Even false ones whose excesses force them
Out to make things right again
So they can drop back into the limbo
Of ordinary lives where soaps and football reign.
And we do it all in moments,
Blazing time that is to short to count
From the stars.
"55 years,” she said, “That’s a long time.”
She couldn’t know the length meant nothing
What mattered were the moments
We did unforgettable things together.
Unforgettable only to us because they were ours
As we walked, ran, and fell through our youth
Burning past loves that were not
And challenges that were
All of which left movies in my mind
Of what we did when the future was limitless
And all that happened in the years it narrowed
Turning us into flawed men who
Tried hard nonetheless not to be.
55 years of who we were together from then
To today when a voice on a cellphone
Said, “He passed peacefully.”
I find no peace in this and
I will tell him so when the time comes.