The more that time and circumstance progress—
I mean myself, not you.
Still, why should I be sad tonight?
These thirty years later,
I’m sure you would be vividly alive
If only, Death be damned, you were alive
And not the dead who failed to navigate
That icy northern street, Diana, where you bled
And we didn’t know to cry. It’s so long ago.
You were my high-school girlfriend’s best friend since youth
And later her giddy college roommate—
Just two more headlong girls their first fast year away from home.
You looked straight through me when I advised you all
To close your bedroom blinds, even on the second floor,
When you undressed at night.
“No one below can see!” you laughed, squinting out at me through
Granny glasses that almost hid your wild unwary eyes.
No one took my advice back then and not much more
Of it in all the time and distance traveled since.
I dated you once, a silly date where nothing happened
Except in me: a tight-wound soaring and a sigh
That made no outward mark or sound—
We never even kissed.
Later, my girlfriend—your girlfriend!—made up with me and it
Was then a great relief all round, that unaccomplished kiss!
We were friends after that—not the best of friends, perhaps,
But now and then, far and near, still friends.
Once, when I took some psychedelic drug, I thought
You were a witch or at least that you looked the part!
I didn’t mean to let it show, but still I was unnerved.
“We all have some form of discomfort with reality,”
My girlfriend Jeanne consoled (and passed another funny cigarette),
"For whether we get High or Low, it peeks back in at us!”
Once when I hadn’t seen you for six months or so
And I arrived full-force in my new long-haired guise
Of hungry, proud, and poor,
You served a generous supper and shook with laughter till midnight,
Especially when you’d found I’d taken up
That silly sixties hippie habit
Of blurting out, “Far out!”
Multiple times in a single conversation.
Perhaps because I said it with my familiar tone of flippancy,
You chose to find my idiocy delightful to the Nth degree
And your fresh freckled face—those contradictory features,
A schoolgirl’s upturned nose, an old-maid teacher’s pursed-up mouth—
Became as vivid as your long red hair!
At last you had to take your glasses off to wipe your eyes
And I thought, just in that moment, I’d never seen before
A woman wearing or needing so little makeup.
It was such Beauty!
But that moment, like the others, soon was lost.
Such beauty passed, yet I survived
To be this wretched, bowed, and crooked self.
Time now makes all these views of you seem true at once—
Except your death.
Can there be no relief at all for those of us not yet released?
Jeanne said she waited for that spectral visit
You promised each other in seventh grade, but the messages
That came to her only came in dreams and to me not at all…
Why is there not some way to recall You instead of memory?
Christ, how I’d love to see you vivid once again!
I was sick of you when you died, hating you almost
For dating that Delaware con-man
Who spoke such manly gibberish.
Was that Engineering-Speak or Business Ghoul
Or just plain Northern Geek?
It’s funny that I don’t remember any more than that,
That his was not the language of Romance that you deserved.
Poor old Romance! It’s suffered so
These thirty years run by
With nothing left now I adore.
It’s disappeared into thin air
Like some bad joke,
Like all those coffin nails and joints we smoked,
Like my old youthful certainties,
Like these new tears for you will do…
You deserved better than this weakness you would have found in me,
But better too than that insensate educated fool you wed,
And certainly better than this hard-closed door
That you stepped through too soon,
That even I at last deplored…
That closure’s lasted now so long that I’ve been ashamed of my anger
Longer than I was angry, longer than I loved you—
God, longer now than you were alive!
Now that’s a knot in time
(Or is it in my stomach or in my head?)
I may never manage to untie.
But why should I be sad tonight?
All Time’s the same to you, dear ghost; it’s always kind—
But just as Jeanne and Adam’s now-grown children
Or my gray-peppered beard give proof I’m growing old,
So your remembered youth and beauty make me feel vain and false tonight,
Here where my moment’s joy and love and beauty have long been lost.
9th draft: 11/18/07
©2000 Ronald C. Southern