Bonding

I was determined to go to the farmer’s market, bum ankle be damned.

A crutch under each arm, I tick-clomped, tick-clomped down the sidewalk, following your patient shadow. I stop. You stop. My armpits ache and sweat slides down my forehead.

I will make it to the farmer’s market. I will buy a goddamn bundle of radishes.

The world conspired against me a day earlier. It tilted the sidewalk; it dug out a crevice for my foot to slide into. It bucked me bronco-style onto the sidewalk.

I cried when it happened–partly out of pain, but mostly out of self-pity. I’m an active person. It’s one of the outlines that defines my shape. And a sprained or twisted or whatever-the-hell ankle is not good for the inevitable malaise I feel when I can’t be outside, when I can’t move around.

I feel a second (third? fourth?) wind swell within me and I step forward, into your shadow. I prattle at you and laugh at nothing, hysterical with the pain/pity cycling through my brain. You say nothing, but let me chatter. As is your way.

Two more blocks. I see the white canopies. I can smell fried momos and kettle corn.

You try to adjust my crutches and I get snappy. As is my way.

“I can do it myself, thank you.”

A sarcastic thank you, and I immediately regret it. You’re only trying to help me travel the vast distance between home and vegetables. You didn’t have to come along.

“Sorry,” I say. “I’m an asshole when I’m injured.”

You shrug. “Yeah, kind of.”

We laugh. I tick-clomp on.

When we reach the farmer’s market, I let out a sigh and feel some of my pain dissipate into a bundle of almandine-colored beets. It’s hard to be mad at the world when it gives you treasures from the soil.

The pace is slow here. No stretches of mean, straight sidewalk. I take my time, looking at the green offerings, smelling the basil, eyeing homemade jars of jam that would only sit next to my other jars of unopened homemade jam (but they’re so pretty in their jewel tones, posing behind mason jar glass!)

I reach one of the stands and pause to examine a bundle of collard greens. A woman stops at my left side. She’s fine-boned and stretches just above five feet; a field of thick gray hair tickles her shoulders. She is leaning on a cane.

We exchange a glance, eyeing each other’s walking aids.

“The struggle is real,” I say.

She laughs. “The struggle is real.”

I tick-clomp on. A sliver of my heart remains tangled in her wild hair.

On a Hill, Overlooking a Strawberry Farm

I stood on that hill overlooking the pond at the strawberry farm; there had been a few small rain drops and a slight threat of rain, so I flippantly stated we were going to go ahead with the ceremony in spite of the threat to those who’d gathered to witness the union between me and my love. The air was sweet, and the breeze light, flowing through the trees with a subtle hush. From behind me the sultry, honest tones of a cello and the yearning, mellow notes from a violin danced in my ear. I looked into the eyes of many of my friends, some of whom I’ve not seen in a while and some far longer. I glanced back to my left and then to my right to see the confident smile in my sons face and my lovely daughter’s who’ve chosen to share in this moment with me, they didn’t have to, but it means the world to me that they came together to celebrate as members of Shira and my wedding party, and waiting proud and graceful, the maid of honor. Then my eyes went to the sky, to the clouds over the fields around us, I thought of how beautiful this day has turned out to be, how proud my father might be of me and how I wished he were alive to be here, to share in this moment.

My palms began to sweat and my mind was awash with thoughts of fantasy and wonder at what the future might bring for my bride and me. As the ring bearers, handsome and proper took their seats and the flower girl made her way up the aisle, meandering and innocently curious what all the fuss was about as she dropped rose petals onto the cool green grass, I noticed a flock of blackbirds take sudden flight from the trees above us.

There was a moment of quiet, short and daunting, and from the guests seated there came a murmuring, then shallow gasps as they all turned around. Abruptly a quiet ringing entered my ear, a new song began to play and then everything was silent but for the guttural and fluid sounds of the beating of my own heart. And there, from behind a grand oak tree stepped out the most wondrous sight, the image of all that is good and decent and strong and magnificent, I was floored, as I watched her step to the back of the seats, I looked at her and nothing else in the world mattered to me in that moment. She stood elegant, poised in her wedding dress, and I just soaked in her image, her lips and her face.

Then, from somewhere deep inside of me a small boy, one whose been hiding for so long, slowly climbed down from his tree, stepped out onto the shoreline along the river and cast upon the cool dark waters his sail boat without care. He stood and watched as the small craft that’d been docked for so long, waiting for him, glided freely on the current, swiftly out of site. When the boy turned and looked at me I knew him, I felt him and as he stepped away, leaving no tracks in the sand I didn’t fall apart, I was no longer afraid, I no longer felt alone. Instead I felt empowered and free.

My heart had stopped but for a minute, I wanted to run to her when the tears began to roll along her cheeks, but she came to me, in the arms of her mother and her father, under a beautiful sky, amongst friends and family, she came to me and took my hand and we looked at each other, we saw each other, we shared in that moment all of our hopes and dreams and embraced a new beginning for each other, for us together. Everything appeared to be perfect, she seemed perfect, but with all of it stripped away, the people, the hill, the sun and the exquisite clothes, the symphony of pomp and circumstance, it was just us, alone and together, with our hearts and souls in each other’s arms. It was altogether, simply and extravagantly beautiful. It was indeed perfect.

 

Lottery Ticket

Remember

back in the day,

crossing Tower Avenue

between the Cove and

the Casablanca?

You would ask a girl to dance.

It was terrifying.

It was so loud that

you had to scream into her ear:

DO YOU WANNA DANCE?

After,

if you were lucky,

you got her number.

She would say,

Do you have a pen?

You would ask the bartender or

the waitress to borrow theirs.

She would write her name and number

on a cocktail napkin.

You’d thank her,

tell her you’d give her a call.

She would smile and

disappear back onto the dance floor.

You would look at this number

like it was a launch code,

valuable and

dangerous.

You would try to memorize it quickly,

in case the napkin was lost or torn.

It was a like a lottery ticket

in your pocket.

When you got home,

you would set it

carefully

on the dresser and

promise yourself

not to call too soon.

Heather, you would say to yourself,

dreamy and sleepy as

you faded slowly into slumber.

Her name is Heather.

In the morning,

the first thing you would do is

check the dresser,

make sure

it was

real.

 

 

 

  • Copyright Timothy Downs

Open Wounds

The drive home is a long one, slow goin’ and frustrating stuck in heavy traffic barely edging along. His eyes began to wander to trees along the side of the highway, there was a squirrel running the branches from tree to tree, making better time than he was in his old truck. It began to seem as though every time he stepped on the gas the car in front of him hit their brakes and gal in the car next to him was applying lipstick as though she was tracing a Rembrandt. Since his move he made this trek every day, lately just to get to a Park n Ride so he could wait around to catch a shuttle to his work. It was a study in stress management and futility.

Today however he kept thinking of his sweet little girl and his son lying on the couch when he got home. He’d get there, fix a snack and take his girl to softball practice, and then they might go home and play cards or have a fire in the back yard. It wouldn’t exactly be like old times, before the divorce but it’d suit him just fine; in fact he looked forward to it. There’s something special about a man hugging his son, hugs are beautiful anyway but there’s certain fragility about a shared hug between father and son. Ever since the divorce he’s felt like he was lost, like he was driving in a thick fog, everything was different now and he’d have to figure out new ways to operate, to make things work between his kids and him. It wouldn’t be easy and he knew it. But he had the most wonderful gal he’d met and fell in love with since the end of his marriage; some say it might have been too soon, some outright stated as much but what can you do when your heart begins to keep time with someone else’s, between the two of them they were right. They both needed mending and they shared some of the same scars and injuries’ from previous lives, they understood each other and knew they didn’t want to be apart.

How much hurt can one heart take, how many times can it be stopped before it fails to start again?

As he pulled around the corner in the rain he saw his son’s car idling in the street, he was just pulling away. He pulled up next to his car and rolled down the window, his son rolled his down and sheepishly looked away. “Hey where are you going bud?” he asked him. His son looked up through the rain and said that his mom told him and his sister to go home since their dad had to work and no one would be home all day with them. His sister had been picked up earlier and his son said that he was supposed to call his mom; he said he was sorry and that he had to go. He rolled up the window and pulled away as the rain poured in over his door. He sat there in the street, the rain seemed heavier and the clouds appeared to grow darker. It felt as though his heart just stopped. This was supposed to be the beginning of a full week with his kids, sure he had to work during the day, the kids were out of school for the summer and he just couldn’t take the vacation. But he planned on eating dinners with them, maybe some ice cream before bed, play a little Ping Pong or Rummy Five Hundred. Then he’d see his daughter to bed and kiss her goodnight. Back in the day he used to have breakfast with her before he’d leave for work, it was a special time for him and one he used to cherish.

But today he sat in his truck, and watched the tail lights of his son’s car fade away in the falling rain. Today there would be no hugs, no kisses. No snuggles. He tried to breathe but it felt as though his heart just laid there in the bottom of his chest. And loneliness crept in closely and took his hands, they began to feel swollen and warm as he spread mortar on the bricks at his feet, the bricks seem to get heavier every time this wall gets built he thought. And he struggled to get it done quickly, his mind was awash in a heavy dose of pity and when he heard his ex-wife’s voice on the phone telling him the kids needed a parent, not an empty house, that they needed someone to care for them and love them he reached for a big swig of rage, he swallowed it and it built inside of him like a blustery fall wind and exploded from his mouth, he threw the phone down, and cleared the counter of something else before storming out the house. He’d walk I the rain, letting it soak his clothes, and his face, he’d walk it off, pushing it back down where it belongs.

How much hurt can one heart take, how many times can it be stopped before it fails to start again? Before it finally just lays there at the bottom of the cage, feeling sorry for itself, bleeding from its re-opened wounds.

 

Undefeated

“Go slow,” my friend warned.

“You don’t want to get wasted too quickly.”

I beg to differ.

Getting wasted quickly is the reason I’m here.

It’s like my mission statement.

Getting Wasted Quickly Since 1978

Wanna get fucked up?

I can help with that.

We don’t need to play drinking games.

Getting drunk is the game and

I’m undefeated.

Was that the first time you got pulled over?

That happens all the time.

Small town cops will drive you home.

Your parents’ wrath is nothing

compared to their disappointment.

You try to sleep it off,

but your dad comes in at 9 AM,

pulls the shade up violently.

“Get up,” he says. “Go cut the grass.”

You feel like shit.

The birds are singing.

The sun beats down.

You throw up on the lawn by the garage.

It kills the grass there.

You’ll go out tonight.

It doesn’t matter where.

Your friends will say, “Go slow.”

You smile.

God likes you.

He looks out for you

as you weave down country roads

in someone else’s car,

as you jump into the river,

as you wobble down dark city streets.

God has plans for you.

He kept you alive for a reason:

to tell jokes,

to write music,

to fall in love,

to write this poem.

 

 

 

 

-Copyright Timothy Downs

David

What was David  thinking,

 

the night before,

 

walking there,

 

the second during,

 

the eternity after?

 

Did he have second thoughts

 

in mid-air?

 

Was there regret

 

or only relief?

 

The moment when you decide:

 

This is what I’m going to do.

 

This is how I fix it.

 

That exact moment

 

is an emotion that

 

doesn’t have a name.

 

You will never know it exists

 

until you feel it.

 

David dissolved

 

into a soft, blue cloud.

 

He’s gone and now

 

he’s everywhere.

 

 

-Copyright Timothy Downs

The Crackdown

Work, bus, drugs, arrests, drink, and
struggle
and no good music anywhere.

And the young male press
says the crackdown on us is coming.

I say we’ll crack ourselves
before they ever get here
if we are not too careful.
They step over us
to avoid their mother’s backs.

Don’t walk alone
they shake their heads
they say say say
all sorts of stupid things,
but they do not say
how to get cabs with money
that stays in the rich man’s pocket.

We each walk alone
Needs must for the lazy (they say say say)
mother
because the late shift pays more.

We rest at last in rooms
behind the hardware store
through the alley
where our children sleep
in streetlight light
that shines
through thin curtains.

Copyright Kay Winter