Friday, August 9, 2013

Happy New Year (from Poems from a Garden Wall)

Summer days (an observation from 1974)

A child is supposed to smile at these summer days, even though they pass straight though his hands like sand grains through spread fingers, strange ways smiles wilt in summer’s noon heat, the lost dreams are the worst part about dying young, the empty sea shells scattered on this beach, the out of reach cloud shapes their desperate fingers cannot touch and their fading minds cannot shape into crows or snow top mountains, it is not the fact that he cannot grow old, but the haze over his eyes that hides all that might have been imagined, the everything of happiness he can no longer bring into this world, his tiny footsteps vanished as the waves of the too-soon wash over and wash them away as if he never existed, no rage for love or outrage at injustice, no poetic words to carve out his love inside his lover’s heart, no father to hold a child of his own, to coo over, to grow old with, to cry with, the too-soon-waves crashing down, leaving only the haunting sound of sea gulls to mourn his passing.

Oct. 10, 1980

I said 1974 was a hard year, but it was not the hardest year of my life – 1972 was, even though it was that year that I first set foot into the rooming house and found real freedom in my life.
You have to go through hell before you find nirvana, and I did, returning home after three years on the run from the police to face justice and myself.
I was 20 when the new year started, living still in an apartment above a head shop in Portland, Oregon as people celebrated the new year, shouting from the street below as they passed.
We were already planning to come home – make our way back to the East Coast, though I hadn’t yet figured on confronting my family.
I missed my friends, and felt very isolated with 3,000 miles of America between us.
I’m an East Coast boy, used to the hubbub of New York, even if I lived in New Jersey, and so we made our way back East, slept in my best friend’s living room for a week before he got sick of waking up to my baby’s cries and made Garrick take my girlfriend and baby, while Pauly and I sought out jobs, and I got scared that the cops would spot me or my uncles wound, at which point, I decided I had to turn myself in, and did – arranging a meeting at the Coliseum on Columbus Circle, where my family worked the annual boat show, and how going through the Lincoln Tunnel in the back seat of my friend’s car, I tried to explain what to expect, whether my daughter would wind up fatherless when my uncles decided to shoot first and then find out what I wanted or something worse, and how when we walked in – my friends leading the way – my uncles met us, like two armies ready to do battle then suddenly calling for peace.

Then the rush to the police station, the days in jail, the court, and the hasty marriage, and then the real sentence when my wife left – for any number of righteous reasons, and being alone, and sad, and going through a summer in pain that felt like a part of me was missing, homeless because I lived in other people’s homes, and then finding a home of my own by year’s end, sitting in the lonely, empty room on a trunk I’d had since I was a kid, trying to make sense of what had transpired, only to hear out the window people yelling Happy New Year, and wondering if the new year would be happier than the old year had been, and thinking, it couldn’t be any unhappier, and as it turned out, it wasn’t nearly as bad, if not any less lonely.

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