Our minds and bodies
evolved to cope with
getting enough food,
watching out for danger,
the social life of the group,
mating and having children,
sleeping and dreaming.
Any time not spent
with these preoccupations
is free for identity crisis.
I’m sitting at a cloth-covered table
at a Sheraton Hotel in Tacoma,
name and microphone in front of me.
Quite a lot of people fill the seats,
because Marion Zimmer Bradley is on
this panel, called, “The Alien as Messiah.”
I guess I’m here because my dragon novels
have a church and religion,
though the gods have no more direct role
on my fictitious world than here on Earth.
Someone in the audience asks us
why people need to look for a messiah.
A thought inspired by my baby son
gives me an explanation for religion.
Human babies must have evolved
an instinctive response to parenting.
There’s a space in their minds for Mom and Dad,
to whom they must respond to survive.
When babies become adults,
they want to fill that space with something.
Ms. Bradley raises objections to my theory.
Orphans? —Someone older must care for them
as babies, or they wouldn’t survive.
Great Mother Goddess? —or our Father in heaven,
Mom Goddess or Dad God, same kind of thing.
We’re looking at a Mom or Dad shaped hole
and think we can see something filling this.
Dau was always trying to get a girlfriend.
When he was younger, all he had to do
was play a hot riff on one of his flutes
and almost any woman he wanted would melt.
In some ways he reminded me of Shayla,
his insomnia, his peculiar blend
of irrational, spiritual, sexual.
When I told him about her, he began
pestering me to arrange a meeting.
I warned him she was pale, with long blonde hair,
not the swarthy type he claimed to favor.
When I called her, told her about him,
she asked if I was trying to fix her up.
I took Dau to Shayla’s house in Ashland
on my way to Norwescon in Tacoma.
He played his flute for her. She was impressed.
He seemed surprised that she was pretty.
After the convention, I found Shayla
by herself, and asked her where was Dau.
She said she fixed him up with her friend, Lila.
His nervousness made Shayla too nervous.
They both panicked. She didn’t want him around.
I hugged her, only meaning to comfort her,
but quickly this turned into making love.
I got Dau back from Lila the next morning.
He talked about Lila incessantly
all the way over the Oregon mountains,
all the way through Redwood National Park,
and for weeks after we got home,
but Lila never wanted to see him again.
He looks at me from his mother’s arms and smiles.
I’m his father, but does he know that?
I’m the man who visits him three times a week.
I hold him in my lap while he’s asleep.
I try to guess what’s wrong each time he cries.
Sometimes I give him and Mom a ride to town.
But I’ve been gone, the author (What’s an author?)
at a science fiction convention in Tacoma
to promote a published book and works-in-progress.
He’s almost four months old.
A week ago, I couldn’t say for sure
that he looked at me with anything more
than spaced-out ambivalence. But now he smiles.
He missed me and he’s glad to see me now.
I want to hug, kiss, and lie together,
say, “I love you,” mean it, and be excited
with a woman who wants to share her life,
but my reality’s not anything like this.
To a casual observer, I look married,
always taking Nancy and Rusty to town.
Except for a notable lack of hugs, kisses,
lying together, and so forth, I feel married.
“Mom, why don’t you and Carl go together?”
Ella blurts out, “You seem happy.”
Nancy gets annoyed if I approach her,
or if I mention approaching anyone else.
I wasn’t that serious about Shayla this time.
We both knew the most we could offer
each other was temporary love.
Every few weeks or months
I stopped in Ashland on my way
to science fiction conventions
in Seattle, Tacoma, or Portland.
We made love, but slept in separate beds.
I wouldn’t stay for more than a night or two.
My mind was on little Rusty, home, and writing.
When her daughter gave up
her granddaughter for adoption,
Shayla thought this was a good idea.
I thought it was terrible.
Shayla wanted to go to a foreign country
and teach English as a second language.
I wanted home and family.
When we saw the Grateful Dead
at a college stadium in Eugene
and camped in the mountains for a few days,
we were almost lovers like we used to be.
Back at her attic apartment,
her clothes were always a mess on the floor,
and I wanted to go home.
Coldest morning yet,
below freezing outside, not
much warmer in here.
The water gurgles through the bathtub.
Letting it just drip isn’t enough
to keep the waterlines flowing.
If they freeze, I might not get them
melted again for several days.
Rotten sappy fir
makes the stove glow dull red, but
I still see my breath.
Another bright, cold, sunny day.
I have walk down the road later
and hitchhike to town to get back my car.
Can you believe it’s been overheating?
The mechanic replaced the water pump.
An afternoon walk,
breathe in and out cold blue air,
crunching on the mud.
copyright © 2005 Carl Miller
“Shadow Relationship” lasted from March 1989 through September 1990.
Drawing, “Bellchime's Dragon”: 1986, Pen and ink, 14 x 17 inches. For chapter 2 of my novel, Dragonbound.