“Those are my best days, When I shake with feare” Holy Sonnet XIX, Oh To Vex Me, Contraries Meet in One. John Donne
Oh, to vex me. The words did not come easily today (also, we should reinstate the “e” at the end of “feare”). This was poem was a struggle, in part because of its subject, which I did not want to choose but I couldn’t avoid, and in part because its the end of the week and we are exhausted (here’s what it sounded like in my brain this morning: WAHHHHHHH I DONT WANT OT BE A GROWNUP ANYMORE THIS SUCKS I’M TIRED). We had Mae’s first skiing lesson today, so I figured, ho shortage of inspiration there, right? And there was, and will be, I’m sure, as I look upon it again someday soon, but today I was too caught up in the glee to poetize too much on the fact that SHE CAN SKI.
Instead something happened that took me off guard. I thought I recognized a former flame standing outside the ski lodge on the mountain. This particular ex-whatever would be the least likely to stander outside of a ski lodge ever. Nonetheless, I was so paralyzed for a moment that the poem had to be about that. I had no choice. In fact, “I don’t want to be writing this” is a line from today’s poem.
This is hard to explain, and one of the reasons I rely on the notion that the laws and ratios of empathy indicate that somewhere out there someone knows the feeling. This blindman’s bluff of a faith in art is the only way I can trick myself into believe that revealing such intimacies as the daydreams of an ex are not equivalent to standing on the playground buck naked. The unique thing about this particular former huh wha?! is that, perhaps in response to the absolute morsellation of my heart in the aftermath, was my tendency to imagine a chance encounter later on in life. Not to imagine any re-ignition, but to prove my radness. Usually I was a spy in hooker heels in these scenarios, but they inevitably ended with said ex’s realization that I am, and always have been, supremely cool. Anyhow, maybe no one else has ever imagined it, but it’s the only thing I’ve got today and a deal’s a deal. The fact that I feel it necessary to explain this so much reveals how difficult it was to write.
I did learn some things, though, like a cool trick I’m calling “The Garrison”. Whenever a moment is feeling forced, and there were many today, I imagine Garrison Keillor reading my words in the morning, and suddenly things sound more acceptable and I want coffee. I also learned “What’s Behind the Curtain” trick, in which I cut the shit and write what’s true, instead of trying to disguise it with wordplay. Okay, the preface procrastination must stop. In fact, maybe that should be rule #4–The Poem Stand Alone. Hi-ho-the-derry-o. Here goes:
Improbable Sighting of An Ex-Whatever
I thought I saw him in front of the lodge on my home mountain (a chance encounter on Neptune would be more likely), a decade after our whatever.
Okay, a decade after I puppied after him in the shiny springlight of my youth (god I hate that word), flying by the seat of my miniskirt.
After the comminution if his disinterest and my subsequent reassembly into a being of better thereness,
after love marriage baby carriage.
I don’t want to be writing this,
this confession of obsession, this admission of distraction for the last long years.
Not because of sticky heartstrings or regret,
it’s just that his name in my brainspace is an assault on my sheer radness.
I AM SO MUCH COOLER NOW.
(or maybe it’s just that he’d Ursula’d my voice with that arrant charm)
I used to imagine meeting him again, all success and patina, and usually stilettos, not for any re-ignition, but for the yearn.
But now, armed with the fortunes I could never imagine, when we meet again on likelier slopes,
I’ll be even more smug.
Because my daughter skied today, gathering fear’s momentum and facing down the mountain, a composer of mirth.
She is a success sweeter than all the secret agent daydreams of best revenge and the only comeuppance you’ll ever need.
Someday she’ll fly right off this mountain into her own compass and because smart girls are dumb at love it may malfunction.
You always hated winter sports. Up close he was a near twin. When she would’ve asked me, “Mommy, who is that man?” I would’ve said, “When things are true you’ll feel north, and when the needle’s off it’s over”.