The Smell of Papaya

Polka-dotted dress
hair cascading down your back
you wore those “flats”
and talked to me,
as if I knew what “flats” really were.

Living memories of joy
feels like flying in the clouds
I remember many things
and many smiles all around
Though the way is often rough–
more than I would care
I know that life continues on
but polka-dots still make me smile.

Witness

A blind man
a man from Nigeria
Stayed in my house when i was a child
Just for a few months.

He always asked me to pray
He was a pastor
He may have been
the happiest man
I ever met.

He taught me to sing a song
Perhaps you know it…?
It goes like this:

“I found a new life.
I found a new life.
If anyone asks me,
what’s a matter with you my friend?
I’ll say I’m saved,
sanctified,
Holy-Ghost-filled,
Water baptized,
Jesus is mine,
Heavenly bound,
I found a new life.”

We would sing this song
on repeat
clapping-
sometimes off beat,
very,
very,
Loudly.

He would laugh when it was over
He would clasp my hand
and hug me like a bear
it made me
uncomfortable
at first.

Now I think back
and remember
my blind nigerian friend
and his joy.

Best witness ever.

The Ice-Cream Girl With Big Large Breasts

remember that time we went out for thai food
and you had just found out
that you had to turn around
and go right back
to the sand
remember how cute the girl was?
the one at the ice cream stand afterwards?
they told me about your dreams
your nightmares
the ones that came true
they told me how the second time,
he didn’t miss.
I got the call
the telling me you were dead
not too long after that
I was in an airport
Everything went silent
I only heard my heart
and I just wanted to scream
and the beating wouldn’t stop
It continues even now…

The Stairwell

The church was big
The building, that is
I was small
Very small
There was a stairwell
A quiet place
That climbed from the solid basement
To the third floor height.
Unless people were exiting a service
It was
almost always
empty
but not empty
entirely
It was bathed,
soaked,
saturated
in prayer.
How many people stepped into this quiet place
To say thanks?
To confess?
To plead on their own behalf,
or that of someone they loved?
I could not have counted then
It was too many
And the place
to me
seemed holy.
No matter what pain,
no matter what had been done,
no matter what I did,
no matter what happened–
when I stepped into that stairwell
I felt
God.

I always lingered in the stairwell
Hoping He would speak
Afraid I would hear
Not feeling I deserved such things

It was electric magic in that place
It was one of the few places
My spirit
would calm down…

When I left that church
so many years later
(“a country-club,” I said)
it was very hard
to leave
that stairwell.

What if I went to another church
and they didn’t have a stairwell?
or what if it was always choked with people?
never still?
never quiet?
what if God would not visit other stairwells?
what if I was leaving God?

I’ll always remember
the peace I felt
when all my world was hell
it wasn’t hell
in that stairwell.

Just Another Day

I feel like I should remember the day
But I have no insight to memorialize
I’m not sure that I learned that much
And I’m pretty sure for your part,
you don’t care and don’t remember.
I could be wrong
(but I doubt it)
but I imagine even the brief desire
to remember
is one-sided
and
I
don’t want the load.

There was a time
When I thought we would be forever
That I had high hopes
And strong faith
and a happy smile
But
(it would seem)
I threw that all away
Though of course I know
that
there is a lot more to it than that
but it still feels
that way
to me.

I don’t have much to say
(not anymore)
about that day
Sure,
my world crumbled
and I believed I was to blame
and there was nothing to do
nothing I could do
and even though it has been over a decade
I still remember wanting to die
Not being able to breathe
being unable to smile
unable to think
unable to sit still
unable to move
I remember being out of my mind
I felt like I would explode
There were too many feelings
all at once
and everyone a knife in my heart.

I remember the dreams.

I had them when we were together
and they were so sweet…
you were very pregnant
Looking in a mirror
and you would call me over
to feel the baby kick
and the baby would
kick
and then I would wake.

I kept having the dream.

After there was no more we
I still had the dream
It was still sweet
It was still beautiful
and then
kick
I would wake
and weep
I would weep with racking sobs
And the pain was so intense
I could feel it
physically
in my chest.

When we were together
I would wake in peaceful bliss

When we were apart
I would wake in horror.

It became the most beautiful nightmare
And beautiful it was,
And a nightmare it was.

I don’t have much to say now.
I have no words of wisdom
I just hope that your life
has been
better than mine.
I hope that
for you
today really is,
just another day.

Forgive Me Gentle Princess

I loved you hard
But we did not
serve the same…

God.

So many things we had just right
And loved to see
in
each other.
but…
your flowing hair
and lovely breasts
and happy laugh
and mischievous grin
and soothing touch
and profound words
and searching verse
and empathetic heart
and intelligent mind
and dark enchanting eyes
and electric goose-bump-inducing voice
and your irrepressible spirit…

were not enough
did not change the fact
could not make me leave…

my God.

I tore out my own heart
to claw my way back to my God
And begged with tears
For His embrace.

My shame at breaking
your sweet
precious
heart
When I should have known–
No,
When I did know
better…

wracked me
and almost tore me
in two.

I did not recover.
Perhaps one day
I will.

All those years ago
When you showed me love
I did not
return it
not the way
I should.

Christ have mercy.

God have mercy.

Lord have mercy.

From a Casualty

In the wake of what we had
I couldn’t see the sun
And every day was like a curse
And so I went to run.

I ran myself into a sleep
And never felt a thing so sweet
And every day I ran this way
I gave a chance for death to cheat.

Every mile I ran in pain
A little less each aching day
But you were just too powerful
And some things had to stay.

I hope that you have happiness
And think not oft of me
I pray your path has led you on
In light and harmony.

And Next Time With Our Pipes

There the tide that brought us in
Fought to keep us from the boat
While creatures twice our size and more
Looked upon us swimming.

The sunset on the water made
All the ocean set ablaze
Nothing but the burning beauty
Meant for us to see.

The vastness of the mountain sweep
Running to the sea
Was like a painting as we swam
Hung just so for you and me.

I will not forget that day
Falling off my board
Smoking in the cabin hold
Out beyond the world.