Neruda

April is National Poetry Month. Here’s a story to celebrate the month.

The first class of the second semester of American history was filling with college students and would be full soon. Michael’s eyes slowly looked around the classroom. A few faces he knew, but most he did not. There was one in particular he’d never seen before. Across the room in the corner was a blonde, an older student in her early thirties like himself. She had a pony tail and an orange sweater. When class was over, she gathered up her things and left quickly.

The next time he saw her in the class she wore green. Her hair hung loose and fell to her waist. She sat in the same corner alone and away from her nearest classmate. On her desk, her laptop and her books walled her against any intrusion from her fellow students.

After the class, he overcame his hesitation and walked over to her. She was pushing her laptop into her backpack. “Do you come here often?” Michael asked, pouring what little charm he could muster into his words.

She gave him a look that said she didn’t much care for his charm, then she said, “Not sure if I do, but my hair does. ”

Not able to come up with an entertaining comeback, Michael said nothing. His eyes followed her as she rushed out into the hallway. His mind raced for a way to stop her and engage her in a conversation. He had nothing. This was not a good way to start off a relationship with a woman he wanted to have a relationship with. Not a good way at all. This wasn’t even a good way to keep one going. Hopefully he would come up with something next time that gave him a half-ass chance.

The next time he walked into the class late. There she was over in the corner in her usual place, her laptop open, her books stacked on the desk. She typed fast on the keyboard. He dropped into the chair at the desk beside hers. She glanced over at him and gave him a leave-me-alone look. Her eyes matched the blue of her dress, then they went back to her laptop screen.

At the end of the class, he leaned over toward her, parted her books and asked, “Would you like to go dancing?”

She showed him her ring. “I have a husband.”

“We can take him along with us. He might even learn a few new dance steps. I’ve been told I’m a good teacher.”

She shook her head. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Before he could come up with something for that comment, she was gone.

When he saw her again in class, he sat at the desk next to her again. Asked, “Just coffee then?” She was in her orange cashmere, her hair in its pony tail.

“Coffee always leads to sex,” she answered.

“Then don’t take your coffee with cream or sugar.”

“I only drink it black.” She opened her laptop cover.

“Never heard of black coffee leading to sex.”

“Now you have,” then she went to her notes. But this time she smiled.

At the end of the class, she turned to Michael. “You like my hair?” she asked.

“Very much.”

“That settles it. I’m cutting it and dying it green.” She seemed to be enjoying herself.

“Can I show you some trees?” he asked.

“What would you want to do that for?” she asked.

“So you’ll know what color green to dye your hair. You can tell from the leaves. Besides I like trees.”

She sighed the kind of sigh that said that she might enjoy the trees. She packed up her laptop, then said, “Let’s go. And no tricks. I’m on to you. Understand?”

“I thought you were,” he said, following her out of the classroom.

Walking out onto the campus lawn, he pulled up beside her and said,”We could be soul mates, you know.”

“I’m afraid not. My last three soul mates I killed off. And I don’t want to be guilty for a fourth death. I’m like Maggie on ‘Northern Exposure’. Guess that’s why they call me Maggie.”

Michael had a name for her now. “I’m Michael.”

A few days later, she was not in the classroom when he arrived. He went to their corner, unpacked his laptop and summoned up his notes for the class. The professor arrived and took his place at the podium.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I have some news,” he began. “Maggie Street, one of our students, will not be with us today. She is in the hospital. The police are holding her husband for questioning.”

A stunned silence swept through the class.

“It’s pretty clear what happened. Her husband came home last night. Took out a .45. Walked into the house. Shot her in the head. She’s in a pretty bad shape. Not sure if she will live or die. Give her your prayers if you do that sort of thing. Otherwise send some good thoughts her way.”

For the next week, Michael waited in the waiting room in the hospital everyday after class. Late in the week just before visiting hours were over, a woman in her late fifties walked over to him. Her hair was gray. “I’m Adele.” She offered him her hand.

He stood up, took her hand and said, “I’m Michael.”

“You know my daughter, Maggie?” she asked.

“I do. We are in the same class together.”

“Thank you for coming. I’ve seen you here every day for the last seven days.”

“How is she?” he asked.

“She woke up hungry as a bear this morning. The doctor says she will be fine.”

Michael went to say something, then stopped himself.

“She has no brain damage, thank God,” the woman continued. “With a lot of work, she will be back to normal. At least that is what the doctors say. It’s a miracle.”

Michael breathed his relief.

“Would you like to see her?”

“No,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure…you know, that she was going to be okay.”

“Well, she is. And thank you,” Maggie’s mother released his hand. “I have to get back to her.”

That night alone in his tiny apartment Michael wrote a poem, the first he’d written in a long time. He wrote:

“I dropped the poems into my bag.
They were Neruda, and only Neruda.
I went to show them to you,
but could not. I could not.

When I see your face,
I think Neruda.
When I see your hair, your lovely hair,
I think Neruda.
For you are the summation of a poem,
of all the poems of Pablo Neruda,
and only Neruda.

When I first laid eyes upon you,
it was like my first kiss.
It was as if I was reading
Neruda for the first time.”

A haiku moment

Who is to say where a poem comes from.

Sometimes a poem sneaks up on me and knocks me in the head. It’s always a surprise when it does. Which isn’t very often . I smile my thanksgiving, knowing what a gift the poem is. And when it’s a haiku, it’s even better.

This one came out of nowhere. I had just poured hot water over the teabag and let the cup of tea simmer in the warm water. Staring into the tea, there were a number of things reflecting back at me: my face, a pond I had swam in when I was in my early teens, a teacher who had dispensed wisdom the way a vending machine dispenses chocolate. Then again, sometimes I stare into a cup of tea, and all I see is a cup of tea.

Trying to think of what it meant–this moment that stopped eternity–I found this poem come into my mind.

a cup of tea
just a cup of tea
and nothing more

 

It’s February

It’s February
And soon day is over;
Before I know it
It’ll be October.

Barren trees and snowy white
Come and go and come again,
Chilly days and chilly nights
With only a fire for a friend.

The sky a smoky gray
With ghosts from another season
Haunting nights and haunting days
Down streets icily freezing.

The stillness is ever quiet
Till the wind bursts from its cave
A blizzard dancing with snow
Flakes bouncing wave after wave.

A white monolith of mountain
Rushes through cities and towns
An endless white filling the eye.
Then a green sprout through the ground.

It’s February
And soon day is over;
Before I know it
It’ll be October.

And the leaves will fall,
And the leaves will fall.

Near 500 words: Love is swimming in deep waters

Love is swimming in deep waters

Far out at sea
Running with dolphins and whales
And the North Star
A light through night and the gales.

Waves rising
Out of the deep then they fall
Breaking down
An unbreakable wall.

Though there be storms
And broken ships in ruins
There’ll be day break
When the morning returns.

The Fairy Tale Blues

Rapunzel has her hair,
Cinderella has her shoes,
Goldilocks has her bears,
And I’ve got the Fairy Tale Blues.

My name is Prince Charming,
But you can call me Prince.
My teeth are pearly white,,
And I know how to dance.

I can do the Quickstep,
My Cha Cha is so fine,
I’m Mister Twist and Tango,
I can Minuet on a dime.

I kissed Sleeping Beauty.
She said, “I’m taking a nap.”
Snow White ate an apple.
It was me who took the rap.

They say I stole the beans
Jack got for his silly cow.
I took it on the chin
When Jack hit me, and how.

I crashed Kind Cole’s party.
Dumpty’s gone to pieces.
The Kingdom’s overrun.
I’m blamed for all the meeses.

All this means but one thing.
Of this I am assured.
Time to get out of Dodge.
I’ve given them my word.

I’m off on vacation.
Permanently so.
I shall never return.
Where I go I do not know.

Maybe greener pastures
Will be waiting down the line.
Somewhere over the rainbow
Kansas will be just fine.