“Little Infidelities” (1995)
Dog Chain Girl
White man Jamaican dreadlocks band, rock reggae roots less black than the coffee I’m drinking. Coffee shop crowd all pretzelled in under dim lights under fans over cheesecake and notebooks. It’s Saturday night in the kingdom of caffeine cool. Check out the berets and the trembling hands. Tonight I’m civilian–longhair bluejeans scribbling poetry eating Toblerone. I buy cappuccino from a quiet girl pretty, funny I never can remember her name. And she smiles smiles shyly smiles pleased to see me I think but who knows? And I smile back smile smile my best smile. Like I said who knows it’s just a game we play.
Beside me sits the leather crowd, high school civilian too for the night. Just jackets so you’d never know, except for the dog chain girl. She’s still in harness. No leather tonight no spikes but still that metal chain around her neck. Dog chain girl so tough we’ve never talked but I like her anyway. Like her looks so young and nice yeah nice despite the chains and leather. I like the big old boat her mother drives. (See her shamefaced dropped off and NOT looking back.)
I’d turn right now and say hello say, but how the hell would that play? I know my limits just some old guy almost thirty and pretty square for all my poetry and hair. A little lost in the kingdom of cool. Not like her not like the dog chain girl. Pounding white man reggae throbbing cappuccino worldbeat neotribal hipster caffeine nightmare. Berets. Notebooks. Cheesecake. Could I have another double? Can I get by please? Yeah jah love excuse me mon but I and I gotta get some air right now. Coffee cup tightrope and jostle doorslam!
And outside. . .
Outside the riverwind blows down the cobblestones, blows leaves and smell of coffee roasting outside beyond the beat. Outside the wind blows and I shiver now with cold drink my double cappuccino looking in through windows. I turn now shiver tremble now I can’t say why. Turn my back turn walk away now coffee cup deserted on the wooden bench. Down along the high banks to where the rivers meet. Breathe listen. Breathe. Listen. Just me the moon the river riverwind.
Sometimes I go a little crazy, get a little lost.
And sometimes I get a little scared.
And sometimes I wonder
Do you scare yourself too, dog chain girl?
“Memories Like Running Water” (1994)
And the Tall Grass
I remember. Nighttime walking tracks. Balance across the low trestle and out of town. The woods were lonely, dark and full of small sounds, small animals like the skunk we followed home one night. You and I. Well, there were days when you and I were hardly friends. But in the nighttime walking tracks. Out of town through lonely woods. We weren’t lonely. Beyond the lights, the night was just the right size to contain a heart or two. And lying in the tall grass, watching midnight freight, watching lights – not stars – move rapidly across the sky. All of outside was just the right size. And you and I. And the tall grass. I remember.
The Riverbank’s Memories
Long after the blades have straightened, after the rains have washed them clean, after snow has killed the grass and new growth risen with the sun, after years does the riverbank remember me? Does the knowledge of my body, caressed by grass and sun and gravity, does that memory fade? The air is heavy with the threat of storm – vapor and electricity – or is it with the memories of all the bodies that have rested there? Sitting with legs tucked, sprawling full length under a sun that’s warm and high, reclining as it sets. Memories. Vapor and electricity. When the clouds let loose, water cleansing the sky, do memories wash away, down to the river to the sea where the past collects in the deep rifts? When the snow falls, killing the grass, are there memories drawn down into the soil, only to be drawn back up into the spring green? There are stories in the grass, in the river. Tales in the clouds, the rain, the trees. What stories? Whose tales? After winter, after death, after years does the riverbank remember me?
Something skips like a stone on water It's funny how a round, flat stone will make a laughing sound Dancing across the water One, two three It's my heart I'm talking about I'm talking about my heart I see you and something skips One, two three And you who didn't know me when put your head on my chest hear the beating hear a laughing sound But you'll never know (How could you know?) what it means when my heart beats
Remembering You (By the River/By the Door)
and I’m sitting
wind in the trees
Memory is a funny thing
a winter sunset
I’ve found you
all the lost ones
the lost times
I’m remembering you
by the river
by the door
and you’re walking out
from the gravel bar
into the flow
And I’d follow
but the water