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Life when it’s tragic
a forced similarity
Spreading like water
—flooding the plain

(Dreamsleep: April, 2022)
Sharon Talbot Apr 10
Before hearing about your death
I began a novel inspired by you
and your struggle with the truth--
The truth of who you were,
what you wanted of life and of me.
And it became a journey
into the past, into a life
that had happened before
we met, decades ago,
and after we parted for good,
I wove a new life out of remnants,
of things I knew or just supposed.
And like a good researcher,
I told of your parents' failings,
the darker side of love.
Of your grandmother and friends,
and even your cousin who
brought you to me,
Luring you out of the homogeneous crowd
and into our perfect valley--
"the land of spires and dreams".
I even spoke warmly of our artless love
and our drifting apart like ghost ships.
After our second parting,
when you left the mortal coil,
I tried not to reminisce about us,
for the story was yours, not mine,
But I fear that a mirror kept
cropping up behind me and
around corners, erasing mystery.
Narcissus caught me time and again.
Even so, I created times for you
that I had never seen or heard.
I have you swimming off La Jolla,
traipsing on mountain paths
in the wilds of British Columbia,
or arguing with your wife
in that mansion you dreamed of.
I invented a girl you would like
and two kids who loved you
in spite of everything.
Your memories of me became
less urgent, locked in a chess box,
in songs or on film, hidden away.
I analyzed your youth, your vanity,
lust, boredom, mistakes and age.
And when it came time for you
to make a decision: to stay or go
again, either west or east,
I stopped and looked over your life,
rolled out flat, like the American plain
from western crags to eastern city
and like a broken record,
the choice shuttled back and forth,
not letting me decide for you.
Glancing at a photo
of your childhood home,
I realized at last,
not that you had died too soon,
but that I really never knew you.
Admiration is the cousin of envy,
as I learned long ago in Austria.
I knew a girl from a village in the Tirol.
I don’t remember her face,
Except for the placid smile
on her berry red lips.
She was not beautiful, but pretty
in a Mägdlein sort of way,
"smelling of crushed daisies and sweat".
But her long, butter-yellow hair,
seemed to have fallen from the sun.
She wore a black, Dirndl vest
that hugged her torso, a white blouse,
and a long. striped, pink skirt.
Even her legs were beautiful,
With tiny, blonde hairs that glistened.
I wished I could be like her:
Simple-seeming, unaware, unquestioning.
I watched her stand on a rocky ledge,
On a little mound like a pedestal
That overlooked an green-blue alpine valley.
She was a poem or an imagined girl
From a fairy tale or an ad for Priumula.
She was  a goddess escaped
from the the netherworld
of dairy barns and milking cows.
I thought that she might never return
there from her lofty peak at the world..
But another girl stood beside her.
A spartan sort with round glasses
And a face like a Pug dog.
She seemed to stand guard,
In a sexless, violent way,
Threatening those who might approach.
I fantasized about pushing her off the cliff,
Just to rid us of her presence.
The altitude was spinning my thoughts,
Wondering what would happen
To this Hummel Fräulein someday.
Would she follow the other youth to Vienna,
Smoke and drink espresso in a café,
Or come back to her alpine home
And milk goats while her children played?
The next day, as if still drugged,
I strolled across the bridge to Germany
And the river path to Freilassing.
There I bought a new, blue blouse
With a heart shaped neck
And brown, corduroy slacks.
It was the best I could do then
And Dirndls were not cheap.
So I spent the summer
As an ersatz Austrian,
No longer an American with jeans.
My freedom was almost euphoric,
Including dodging classes
About Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill,
Die Dreigroschenoper,
Those overrated poseurs!
(Except for Mack the Knife.)
I even attended Mass at various cathedrals,
just to hear Mozart or Schubert dance
up in the arches with cherubs,
or in front of ancient, colored glass
in the gloom of medieval stone.
I accepted that The Tyrolean Girl
And her antique, sunlit style
Were as inaccessible as
Gentian and columbine, mist-shrouded
on high peaks wrapped in clouds.
I once ran to see some up close
And nearly passed out.
But knowing that, I felt their charm
Had descended from the heights
To entice us in the valleys,
With pink striped cloth, gold hair
And amethyst flowers.
They flee past us like time,
Swift as the rivers in Spring.
I first remembered years ago,
At twenty-something,
Speeding along in a 240Z
With my father.
Apropos of nothing,
I suddenly remembered it all,
The pain, fear, chases
And flights up stairs,
Only to have her catch me,
And feel the pummeling fists
Like a mad horse’s hooves,
Treading me down.
Back in the present,
My father was admiring trees
As we buzzed past them,
Unaware of the storm beside him.
She wore him down too
In a different way,
With constant denigration.
Over the years I watched
As he shrank way to
A painful, infested brain.
Unlike me, he had no defense,
Loving her as he still did.
It was as if he chose cancer
instead of anger or rebellion.
I had raged against her
And stood tall from childhood
To the now, when thunderheads
Rose from me above her.
Long ago, she had been
The random bolts from the blue,
Causing pain but not killing.
Now I am the storm,
Gathering over years,
Sweeping up heat and vapor
Sending and receiving energy.
The lightning bolts are truth
And their pain is admission,
Though never bringing remorse.
I am the storm warning her to run,
While knowing that she never will.

Edited October 2, 2021
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