Sitting with the cherry Jell-O in front of me,
thanking the universe for this food
and all the beings who helped provide it,
including the plants, the animals and bacteria.
Really staring at it, observing how it wiggles,
slowly putting a bunch in the spoon
and eating it, really being aware of the taste
telling myself that this food is transforming itself
into life energy for me and the warm glow in my stomach
means I am becoming more strong and beautiful.
Courtney sprinkles more of her perfume, Sunflower,
on her knee and armpit — everywhere she wants to be kissed.
Courtney has the magic to become whatever she wants —
but can’t decide to be a comedienne
and make the world laugh away its cares,
or a surgeon and pull teeth, compound pills and set bones.
She picked Billy, our neighborhood’s third best-looking boy, just for practice.
Brown and brilliant like fresh-fallen chestnuts,
there is nothing in the guy of valor or knightly skill.
The clash of steel lances and the tempered blade hold no charm for him.
Besides, he’s afraid of rats and heights,
and keeps his pockets full of Cheerios, dried prunes and Skittles.
A truly masculine boy would be scared to death of Courtney,
all golden hair, flashing eyes and baby-apple breasts.
I see her as though she’s on the moon
and I’m looking through a powerful telescope.
Mom calls out again for us to go to sleep.
She must go to the job she hates in the morning.
All night she cried buckets and devoured shrimp and Oreos.
She also wrote tomorrow’s “Things I Must Do Today” list
and smelled the $49.99 roses her lover left
as a “breaking up” present.
Maybe he left because of her secret voice
that says a hundred times a day that she’s dumb, fat and hopeless.
OK, Mom, we’re going to sleep.
I love you. But you are very small.
I know you’ve been protecting me, and I appreciate it.
You’ve kept me from getting hurt.
But if you had confidence in me, you wouldn’t bug me so much
with your thou shalt not drink out of the milk carton,
thou shalt not leave your bed unmade.
Besides, you are more into celebrities than philosophy,
more interested in bargains at the Lincoln Mall than in saving the alligator.
All day I have resented the daylight
and ached for the dark.
Besides, we’re out to seek gold tonight
and the wind is fresh and free and devours all.
Could you tell that I love to dance, to make goofy faces
and play with tomtits, minnows and mice?
My teachers want me to say “yes” and never “no”
to all the accepted views of our time,
to bob my head only one way like a china mandarin.
But, I believe in the innate nobility of women.
I want to know more than my teachers know,
like how machines can detect lies,
how a giant airplane lifts itself into the air
and how sand turns into glass.
Did I mention that I am an atom whirling through space?
I am a majestic cloud.
My strength is as a whirlwind.
I can pull up an oak by the roots.
Courtney, who knows her etiquette, says it’s time —
Fifteen minutes is long enough to have made Billy sweat.
So we sneak out the kitchen door and enter the Garden of Hesperides.
With visible tracks, we walk
past giant oaks where the Druids worship
and the “grass is always greener” grass
where timid rabbits go hop, hop, hop and plop, plop, plop.
We skip from stone to stone across the brook
over the glop-glopping of the turtles paddling.
On a more quiet night, you can hear the rocks talk
of slights and snubs they have endured for centuries.
In the tangled thickets, we hear a lovelorn whistle
where Billy is hiding.
He sports the new, bad haircut his mother made him get.
Courtney tells him to relax,
the hair will grow back,
we still find him desirable.
Billy offers us some Skittles.
Courtney says it’s bad for her complexion — and his.
He hesitates to eat his handful of Skittles.
He throws them on the grass and says he’s not littering,
they are for the rabbits.
Courtney says relax, we’re going to have a good time.
Relax, she says, she is protected and so am I.
He says we have a fifty-fifty chance of swiping a six-pack of beer
from his brother’s stash in the park
the Freshman and Sophomores call Atlantis.
We walk into the mist
which assists in making our bodies more comfortable,
and step onto Highway 394,
the snaky two-lane shortcut that lets cars avoid a stop light.
Courtney puts her arm around Billy’s skinny waist.
But he keeps both of his hands on his bike
and I hear his breaths in slow motion,
three parts air, one part despair.
As for me, I feel absolutely and completely alone,
faced with the terrible responsibility for myself.
And the scar on my knee from kickball two years ago
looks strangely unfamiliar.
As I step onto the road, I see the light
of the pain-maddened beast
eager to devour me as soon as I am born.
No one can say to this light, “wait until I’m ready.”
The spirit bloweth where it listeth, when it listeth.
There is no skidding, no braking.
The brown or rust-colored 1983 Chevy pick-up
just proceeds like business as usual.
(Frankly, I would have preferred a Ferrari.)
At any rate, I fly into the shrubbery,
my shoes still on the road.
Billy screams “Oh my God” and flees on his bike.
I won’t bore you with the details
except to say I think there is no one truth
(in fact, there are too many truths).
Your fingertips tingle just a little
and it feels warm until it wears off.
Courtney, who always knows what to do,
tries to breathe the breath of life into my nostrils.
Then she says, “Wait here until I come back with horses.”
She’ll be home momentarily.
She’ll want to check the mail.
(I leave it in the box
because I know she loves to collect and sort it.)
She’ll want her glass of Pinot Gris.
(It’s my job to open the bottle
and pour her a glass.)
She’ll be on the cell phone to her stoned brother,
whose gay lover hates her,
or her father, remarried to a woman who hates her.
And her father, too, has decided to hate her
and betray all he was
and believed in.
Soon, she’ll be home and find something wrong with me.
Cat fur and another hole in the latest sweater she bought me,
cat fur all over the place.
The household clutter she accumulates.
What she’s looking for is not where she left it
or where she thinks it might be.
But, look! She rounds the corner!
I wave and smile, hoping
she’ll acknowledge me.
I love her
to the best of my ability.
But my thinning hairline, deteriorating spine,
inability to sell myself or feel good about myself …
Before long, I’ll react
to something she says or does
and cause her to cry.
Next morning the routines will continue.
Bring in the newspapers –
put hers by her black leather backpack.
Make her wake-up coffee and bring it upstairs.
Put away dishes and food she cooks
that I don’t finish.
Drive her to the train as carefully as I can
though she grips the holder by her seat, cringing
as I cope with new potholes
and take a couple of chances.
Then I drive to my miserable job.
Fifteen years ago, just beyond this toiling town,
a soft April stole
among a few crocus leaves
and sprigs of Scottish heather.
I saw her saunter down the lane,
as if to meet me.
I longed to speak to her,
but could only murmur “Good evening,”
to which she said nothing.
I know it’s only a memory,
a moment you can never empirically test,
verify or falsify.
Suffice to say: The best has already had its chance to happen.
Now and then I’ll notice
in a photo among the clutter:
canoeing at Lake Louise,
gazing atop the Eiffel Tower,
riding a horse cart among the shrines of Bagan …
It’s been forever since I’ve inspired
her to smile.
Meanwhile, day after day, that nameless mound
just beyond the sleeping town
And I wonder about that fairy tale
they call forever,
where she and I will come across each other
among many crocus leaves
and I will cause her to smile forever.
Paul Brucker, a marketing communications writer, lives in Mt. Prospect, IL, “Where “Friendliness is a Way of Life.” Active in the early 1980s Washington, D.C, poetry scene, he put a lid on poetry writing when he went to the Northwestern University grad ad school to learn how to think like a businessman and secure a decent income. Nevertheless, he has succumbed to writing poetry again.