Friday, July 13, 2012

Thank You Notes

Time was I adored a slack, girlish, expressionless face, eyes wide and distrustful: now, it produces barely an echo in the far halls of desire. That girl, over there, now, with a rosebud mouth: even when she catches her underlip in her teeth, you can tell that she's seeing her face in the mirror. She has practiced. She's practicing now.

No, nowadays I want a face that wrinkles frankly with laughter, faces that do rueful or appreciative, eyes that laugh. I want hands that are lined like beach sand. I want skin with a little slack, flesh with a little give, a body that's been lived in comfortably.

Girls we called them, unselfconsciously, when I was young, long ago, in the vanishing country of the 1960s. They took my breath away. I don't know why, now. I guess I thought they would be doors into new countries. Now I take them to be doors into heavily perfumed closets full of repugnant stuffed animals. Neither even begins to be near the mark, I suppose. People are not doors. It's little enough any of us can give to anyone else. And we can give nothing at all until they stop expecting things of us.

Vapor trails scatter and melt in the unsteady sky. Yesterday I watched an airplane coasting the moon, and then a swallow actually crossed his pocked face. I tried to do the numbers: how often should the path of bird or plane cross the tiny disk of the moon, floating in all that sky? It was a surprisingly complex problem, and it defeated me handily. But once I had envisioned all the lines drawn by all the birds all day, I could see it was less unlikely than I first thought: that the moon would be caught often in that net. And of course when you look up at the sky, where do you look? At the moon. And then your gaze is snagged by any nearby bird, and if it seems to be heading for the moon, you keep watching. Not so unlikely after all; not if you spend a lot of time looking at the sky.

Koi zigzag in the brown water. The surface is half silver, piddled with leaves; the koi move deliberately, almost ceremoniously, signing their names on the shifts of the pond. My hands remember your chest, the way your ribs rose gratefully to fill my palms. Desires and memories signed their names under the surface there, writing slowly, fading quickly. Thank you for yours of even date.


rbarenblat said...

I love the koi signing their names on the pond, desires and memories signing their names under the surface of our skin.

alembic said...


Sophia Jackson said...

No one writes quite like you, Dale. I love it, and my smile wrinkles thank you. Sophia :)

Peter said...

Wonderful, Dale.

Natalie said...

Thanks for this, Dale, just what I needed today when I was feeling unacceptably self-hating after seeing a photo of me on the internet, baggy-eyed, jowly, wrinkly, and many more things with a lot of y's (or why why whys?). It's a great relief to read that such signs of impending disintegration of previously desirable female characteristics can even be pleasing!

Anne said...

I second Natalie. A thank you note for that from an old lady with laugh wrinkles and some that must have come from frowns and tears.

Odd that you should have that feeling about girls. When I was a girl I used to look at boys as objects of mystery and desire. Now when I see adolescent boys I think, only a mother could love those. And I remember how I loved my sons through their teen years, in spite of everything.

Dale said...

Thanks, dear friends!

Anne, yes, it takes raising kids to adulthood to break the mystery. Or at least, that's the surest way. You realize, Christ, all those girls, boys, objects of devotion, they were just kids all along, they needed someone to look after them. And I guess if you take it to its conclusion you can see everyone like that.

marly youmans said...

I like the way you used "piddled." Still thinking about it.

And the moon in a net of plane and bird lines (which is the end result of thinking about one bird and one plane.)