(About a 4 minute read)
Do you remember now those decades ago
On the porch of the Oak House?
The evening you wrapped us in a thin blanket
Elbow to elbow in solidarity
Against the October chill?
We listened to the coyotes calling to the late sun
And waited for the night
And waited for the comet
That hung above the San Luis Valley that year.
You were a girl then. Seventeen and sick with worry
The boys would never want you —
Want you enough to stick with you
Beyond the sex you gave them,
Want you enough that the love you felt
Would ever be returned.
I was forty-three — and twenty-six were the years between us,
The years you reached across to ask me in earnest:
“What must I become,
What must I turn myself into
To earn a boy’s love?”
That afternoon on a bed of moss and stone
You had fallen asleep next to me
In the shallow water of the Upper Pool.
Small bubbles formed on your pubic hair like silver jewels,
Sun and shadows raced and swirled across your satin skin,
Something older than the gods spoke
In your graceful curves, spoke in an ancient tongue
Of your youth and your fertility
And I could not believe
Anyone so beautiful
And I could not believe
Could feel so alone.
Do you remember now those decades ago, Jackie,
When you bravely reached across the years between us,
When you broke open your heart,
When in the growing dusk
You called off your guards,
And in the gloom
Surrendered your proud walls,
In order to reveal to me naked and honest
Your desires and your fears?
Do you remember now your lips were trembling,
Trembling as you spoke,
And not from the cold?
You were seventeen years old
But a hundred years tired that night,
Tired and worn,
Cornered and numb
From how the boys would lie and use you cruel,
From how they had taken the least,
Ignored the rest,
And left the best of you behind.
You spoke of a hollow chest,
You spoke of an emptiness,
You spoke of a twilight
Through which winds of loneliness twisted and wailed
By night and by day.
And you spoke of a growing hatred,
An exhausting hatred for yourself,
A quicksand sucking you down.
You were so sure no boy could love you
Unless you could become an alchemist
And with estranging fires and poisons
Turn the lead you thought you were
Into the gold you thought you must become.
Tonight I wonder what you have become
In the cauldron of the two decades
That have passed since I told you,
Urged you, that night on the porch
Not to hide yourself beneath a mask,
Not even a mask of gold.
I all but begged you to be true to yourself —
True so someone could love you for who you are.
True so that someone
Could love you Jackie
For who you are.
I ached that night for you to make my words
Your path and your road, your light and your guiding star.
I ached that night for my words to nourish you.
I ached for my words to encourage and to heal.
Did you grasp my advice?
Did you discover the meanings
That ran like a subterranean river
Beneath my words?
Did you see the truth
That I tried to point you to?
Were you able to turn the words
I spoke into something real?
Have you had the guts
To be yourself?
Tonight I wonder, Jackie,
Does someone love you now for who you are?
Or do you wear tonight a mask of gold
And the winds still twist and howl
Through the emptiness of your heart?