Taking stock in mid-life at the request of Mary Oliver
A year or so ago, my step-mother finally down-sized, not from my actual childhood home, but the one she moved to after everyone had left, and a neighbour knocked on the door one night with a big musty-smelling box that had been stored in her draughty garage for maybe a decade and I left it sitting on the sofa-bed in the spare room for a few weeks, leaving a mildew patch on the cushions, and when I finally got round to unpacking it, one of the damp-flavoured mementos vomited onto the carpet was a wood-framed canvas photograph from my graduation and I remember that astonishingly the whole family had been there, thanks to no small effort by my youngest sister, and yet no-one else is standing beside me, and from the full-wattage smile on my face, doesn’t seem this bothered me at the time, which I wonder about, now, a little, and I discover I used to assume the picture was never on display in the house when I visited because it was taken when I was in one of my periodic fat phases and more recently I thought maybe it was because I looked too happy on my own in front of the honey-brick library or maybe because I have an annoying face, and then I wonder whether it’s possible to recover that cloudless mindset after so many years of bumping into the edges of things and wonder, too, if I could channel a portion of that self-assured serenity next time I’m tempted to google “college alumni of note” and scan down the list as if my name might somehow be included.
Lost Love Poem I
Through hours of clearing closets, I am studying the hopes I used to harbour.
Such pinkly brittle candyfloss castles, gravity-defying models that I assumed
to be waiting for me in my future life. Script pilfered from Disney/Harlequin.
We met in Colorado in our twenties. Can a conference lunch be sepia-tinged?
Dancing the edges of our culture gaps, we conjured romance at the airport gate.
Of course, we believed in forever, then, foretelling ourselves together at eighty.
We proved too fragile for forever. Of course. But endings don’t just end things,
and leaving is a way of making space. So, at a bar in Holborn, you make space
on the bench beside you, and buy me a gin, and then another. Shall we dance?