Our love went on for nearly a year
He won me over with compliments
done by phone
and would wait for his calls
and knew even before he spoke
who it was
I could feel his breath
and got to like that breath on the phone
the gasp that came while preparing to speak
and in that moment, ecstasy.
I became inside. Skating, dancing
like when I was a child.
And he’d tell me wonderful things,
‘the melody of your voice,
the proficiency of your work.’
He knew how to woo.
And every time the phone rang
it go so
I wanted it to be him.
I was snagged. Bedazzled. And let myself be.
It felt grand, like sailing down a
cliff waiting to be caught in
velvet arms before
the grassy bottom.
He lived in a tall rowhouse in the city
The door was blah, he’d rattle
the keys as he’d let us in
we stood on a small uncovered porch
then ascend, our shoes thumping
against the wood
a steady rhythmed
march up the steep flight to his rooms.
There were three of them, large,
ceilings high. A useless fireplace
held his books, stacked in there
like small Christmas trees.
He spent time in the room in the middle.
At a desk with a thick wooden chair I imagined auditors
with visors over their brows
sat in long ago. Reading the paper,
science fiction, writing out his checks
in that small black scrawl of his.
Stacks of his typed-up poems and plays
filed away in one of the auditor’s
He believed in reincarnation.
It was the one odd belief I couldn’t subscribe to.
But took all the rest. If you love someone,
you take them whole.
And when I’d come, we’d sit in the living room,
which gave onto a huge backyard.
We were three stories up and day after day
I’d see the progression of a black man
far below coming out to fix his car,
his body bent under the hood,
his tools lying flat on the spot of grass
that passed for backyards in
tools lying flat and pressed out
from three stories above.
There was also out the window
taller than the others –
part of the vast university system
wrapped in pink insulation material
He was surprised I called it beautiful
and went to it each dawn.
He liked, I could tell,
I found beauty in things he never thought of.
Like his fingers, round, with rings on
them, and the curled hair on his chest
that made me feel when I put my head there
like a lamb grazing in the fields.
And he had a huge record collection
of all the great jazz artists and blues artists
and he would let me pick out the records
and showed me how to use the stereo
and I’d put the needle on carefully so as
not to scratch them.
And I’d dance to Miles “Running the
Voodoo Down,” and some modern-day gospel
and sometimes in between we’d hear
street noises, the sound of a car alarm
and sirens, plenty of sirens in
And we’d sit on his huge black futon
for hours and kiss.
And the pink building was off in the distance
and when it got dark outside, the pink building
also got dark.
He would wait for me on the corner of his street.
He loved me deeply. And I’d swing by in my car
and he was waiting and I’d roll down my window and
he’d walk over and we’d kiss a very long hello.
And then I’d park my car and we’d go up.
And I can still remember the smell of the
cooking of the Indian woman on the bottom floor,
it filled up the apartment house, not unpleasant,
but not pleasant either. A greasy smell, like
from one of those gloomy Dostoyevsky novels
I read as a teenager.
And the Indian children,
you’d hear them from his apartment
running around downstairs
like all children do –
I never did see them –
but we heard them while kissing
and dancing and talking about
his day and mine.
The first time I saw him was when he came over
and got off the train at Willow Grove.
He said, “Look for the man in the red cap, bald,
and a black backpack.”
I sat on the steps by the Willow Grove station
and waited for the 11:52.
My heart was pounding, it was
coming through my mouth,
and I sat there, my body rocking with my heart
looking down the tracks and waiting to hear
the clang of the bells and see the
stop lights do their fandango that meant the
train was coming down the line.
He got off last.
The man I already loved. The voice on the phone
now complete. I walked over. I was wearing my
best tight jeans and jacket, my comfortable walking sandals.
He came down the steps of the train
as a man walking into the clear air of
the conductor waiting.
I got up and he came toward me.
He put down his backpack and we stood there
in a huge shy hug with the people passing by.
I pressed my head against his chest and said,
“So this is who you are, so this is who you are.”
And we were casting soft glances at one another.
It was not one of those Internet romances, you know,
where you send pictures back and forth. This was all done
by voice. You fell in love with the voice and then you met the person.
“We’ll walk,” I said grabbing his hand.
“I want to show you my world.”
And led him down Davisville Road
past the shops and bakery
that smelled like cream puffs.
But he was not, I want to tell you right now,
the man I pictured over the phone. And
I was trying to put the man he was
into the voice over the phone.
And it wouldn’t work.
But let’s not tell her yet.
Let’s allow her to have the time of her life, to trick her
into believing everything she wants to believe.
She needs it, poor thing.
For love, she’ll become a fool.
will discard everything –
wits, clothes, propriety, duties
joyfully, in the name of love.
Under the sheets in his large bedroom they’d lay.
The first time they were together
they stayed for hours, all night even
Such hungry mouths and flesh and hands.
Every patch of parched body loved and warmed,
taken care of
healed of wounds for all time,
“You make me feel
I’ll never die,” she said.
“I want to give my life to you and marry you,” he said.
He slept late in the morning snoring. His body hunched
at the shoulders like an old man.
She would awaken first, press her
cheek against his, and
do yoga in the living room.
He’d have her food waiting for her in the fridge
her Tropicana orange juice and Diet Dr Pepper.
And he’d have heaping bottles of Diet Pepsi for himself,
stored sideways at the bottom.
They’d sit together in the living room
in the morning and
sitting in the chair, he’d drink down
his Diet Pepsi right from the bottle,
he had a mustache and she’d watch his
small fingers twist off the cap
And would listen for the sound the
bottle cap would make. The quick
twisting sounds. The boisterous rhythms
his fingers made it do.
And would close her eyes
and listen to the sound.
I’m a part of his world, she’d think,
And it was like that from the
winter months through the
until one time she drove over and
he wasn’t waiting outside and
she couldn’t roll down her
window for their kiss
Another time the Dr Pepper and the
orange juice were missing from the fridge.
She looked at his graying mustache and
tiny black marble eyes and whispered
But she wasn’t ready just yet to bear the news.
They went to one of the fine Mexican restaurants
in the city and she saw when he ordered that he
looked the waitress up and down. And had a snotty
look of arrogance that she’d never seen before. His
arms were extended on the table, his cuffs unbuttoned,
exposing his fancy gold wristwatch.
And his head was tilted back in arrogance.
She had never seen that look before and began to fret.
And then one night she stayed over –
and found it harder and harder to leave
so great was the feeling in the pit of her belly
that she was losing him –
and was –
and was lying naked under the great white sheet
and he was sitting in his underpants in the chair
and wasn’t talking –
and she had a tremor.
And she turned off all thought and
attended to the tremor. She was a woman in her fifties –
“beautiful, radiant, glowing,” he had called her
before and after
and felt the tremor,
like finding an old lost toy
on the beach, a rusty child’s pail
with a swinging metal handle
And she heartened to the tremor,
and the feeling, the lost feeling
like a she-dog hearkens to the full moon
and, God, she had never felt so alone.
She threw back her head on the pillow and
took one last look at the ceiling fan
and at his altar of things on his dresser:
the picture of his bar mitzvah in tallis,
his sister’s marriage to the man who
became the president of a great university
a picture of himself in a small tight black suit,
his hunched shoulders
firmly outlined with pride, his captured brilliance.
And with a sob threw off the sheet and put on her socks
her panties and buttoned her blouse over breasts he would
never see again and looked at him. Under the sheets,
she had made a deal with herself:
”I never want to feel this way again.”
At home she would walk the floor
and beg God in the night,
Please, don’t let me dial his number again.
She would pick up the phone and would trace the numbers
over the dial, over and over.
She could do it blindfolded
her head thrown back feeling the
numbers like Helen Keller her raised Braille.
She’d pull out the plug and dial
the numbers, pressing them hard
and listen for
and strain to hear that breath
and then the voice
and then to feel the rush of ecstasy.
Every time she heard the train
coming or going from Willow Grove
when she was out in the yard
or even up in bed
she’d remember the smell of his aftershave
the feel of his bald pate
would see him descend the steps
of the train, his backpack
weighing him down.
She threw away the cards he’d sent her
the necklaces, the love letters,
threw them all away, except for one thing she put away,
an envelope with his writing on it.
And yet if she really wanted to
could look around the house and find
in each thing
in each particle
in every mote of dust floating
in the sunlight
#Poem #Poetry #RuthZDeming #FrankiesGirl
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