Wednesday, July 10, 2013

On Reading Old Letters

Man About to Speak

Beware of the past.
You will not be found innocent.

I can't remember
how many friends I had
after I departed to Illinois.
It's true they were far away and
I enjoyed their affection
only through the mail
with its own kind of sensuosness.
The tracings of pens and pencils,
dribblings and stains
informed me of bodies.
How much they professed missing me
and asked for my return.
To be asked when you are coming back
is one of the most touching endearments,
especially when you
have no intention to.
I should have felt beloved.
I thought I was superman in those days.
So kind and knowing.
Knowledge always precedes education.
Education only refines,
adds patina,
gains you names, arguments,
but knowledge is constant.
I survive by inventing theories.
My family were much kindlier than I remembered,
always wanting me back even though
I thought I was cruel and undeserving.
My younger sister
just wanted me to bring her gifts.
Howard Persky was a soldier,
which made a difference in my soft mind.
He wore a khaki jacket with his military patches
before the Vietnam War even really got started.
Came from a family of
drinkers and cynics,
worldfulness, exactly what I feared
and needed in 1961.
Pretended to be
an English gentleman.
When he bought gas
he called it motor fuel.
He knew all about beer
and whiskey which we drank
with Mary at the
night-soaked Sligo Golf Course
after an evening
of hopping the bars
on Georgia Avenue.
Mary was my long days journey.
She let me speak
and pretended to want me.
I was almost hearty enough.
Elizabeth I met
during my flirtation
with English Literature in 1963.
Another lesbian,
pretty blonde
with soft hands and beautiful legs.
I used to pick up Elizabeth
at the counselling center
where she was trying to be cured.
When the university found her out
they hinged expulsion on her success.
I fell passionately
in love with Elizabeth
with all my post adolescent yearning,
the feel and the look of her.
She allowed me her company
and the freedom to dream.
Her father owned an
automobile dealership in Baltimore.
Well-to-do. I could never meet their expectations. I was
part of a disguise for her parents,
she knew I wasn't very good at it.
I followed Elizabeth
and drove her
where she wanted to go.
When she looked for a job
after she left college,
I drove her from office to office.
An editorial job in a small business magazine,
I was glad when she came out beaming.
Elizabeth had been interviewed by love,
She and the matronly magazine owner
immediately set up housekeeping together.
I could have been a friend to both
but I melted.
Elizabeth never wrote me letters.

 Eleanor,  I'll never forget.
How she cornered me
outside the lecture hall
with her downcast eyes,
looking so respectful.
I thought women were
supposed to look
just like that.
I spent evenings in her company.
She made me supper of beans and greens.
Eleanor was studying nutrition.
In my mind it wasn't a high profession.
She was a practical person
with concrete attitudes.
But there was a twist to her,
a sadness that called for
my special talents.
Sitting at her table
became a staple of my life.
It was only when I developed
a tenderness toward her that things changed.
She stood at the cabinet drawer
looking for needle and thread.
I came up behind her,
suddenly driven by a gush
of something physiological.
I touched her hand.
She withdrew alarmingly.
Lesbianism was illegal in those days.
Eleanor's partner was a butch named Maxine.
She called her Max.
I would be an appearence.
Not my charm
but my availability
made her wait for me.
Professor Thelma Lavine, one of the saints,
stands with her face
set aglow by the sun slipping
through the high window.
There's a smile filtering
on her face as she feels
the chewing gum of
long practiced speech
oozing thrills among us.
As we watch.
news fills the cells
of my mind but it doesn't hurt.
My response is evocation,
raising my hand
wanting more sweet speech.
She invites me
after class to
discuss my future.
She invites me to tea
in a world I never imagined.
There is mysterious
promise in what she says.
I won't be able
to tolerate such dreams.
Professor Marvin Jerry Cline
tolerated me with
relative intimacy.
He taught me my
funny one legged walk,
and let me make up my theories.
Different views
arguments with
opposing teams,
the glories of conspiracy,
he wanted me to stay
for a few more years in Maryland.
I don't know why I left him.


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