You hugged me,
didn’t want to let go,
and here we are again,
like we never parted,
like we’ve always been lovers.
I couldn’t imagine this,
now I can’t imagine anything else.
madness is seductive
the swoon she expects
from a vampire’s love-bite
strange pleasure of her knife
cutting lines in her pale skin
the literary types are wrong
there’s no romance in madness
just monocolored rooms
disheveled smelly people
babbling and drooling
confused psychiatrists pretending
they know what to do
I looked into Nancy’s watery eyes,
both of us realizing our choices were wrong.
Somehow, if we’d stayed together,
let her daughter Ina live with us,
maybe whatever happened to Ina
that drove her into this madness
would not have happened.
“I don’t want to live with you,”
I said, and Nancy was fine with that.
She just wanted me in her arms.
But the more we learned about Ina’s troubles
from the perky psychologist
and the mopey social worker,
the more it seemed like even last year
was too late to make any difference.
Ina just seemed addicted
to cutting herself with knives.
When we took her to the mall
she headed straight toward the knife store.
When we went to the zoo,
she made me talk with her alone,
annoyed that I seemed to think she was insane.
“I’m bipolar, not schizophrenic,” she said.
Nancy made love with me twenty nine times
the first eighteen days of this month.
Seven years ago, she was my worst torment.
For whatever reason, she and her boyfriend
were keeping my toddler son away from me.
I was starting a custody process with a lawyer.
A year ago the egocentric artist
and hormonal disturbance got into a fight.
How many times must I make the same mistake?
Now this very same woman is removing
all my cynicism with countless kisses.
I believe this. I’ve never been so certain.
Already, somewhere in my heart,
Nancy’s gone from lover to problem.
The perky positive people say,
“A problem is a challenge viewed negatively.”
I don’t want any challenges either.
My species may have evolved to cope
with complex social interactions,
but I’m not very good at this.
How can everything be okay again?
Nancy just does life the hard way.
Okay, I’m off in my own little world.
Drawing dinosaurs is a major art form.
Television is for watching nature shows.
Cities are primarily repositories
of museums, bookstores, and college libraries.
Is the common viewpoint any better?
If you hurt, abuse a substance.
Pig out on Thanksgiving, get drunk on New Year’s.
Horoscopes are valid prophecy.
Get a job, get up early, experience traffic.
I have problems, no relief in sight.
Drugs are useless. Religions are useless.
Everybody knows philosophy is useless.
Psychology is useless. Pain is useless.
The only really useful thing is art.
Written biographies with enough detail
can take days or weeks to read.
Television distills life to a vivid hour.
In so many of these condensed lives,
about the time the people reach middle age,
their lives go tragic and fall apart.
Lovers and children die, reputations get ruined,
wealth, happiness, and sanity get lost.
I’ve watched this happen to
Cleopatra, Hadrian, Beethoven,
Lewis and Clark, Jefferson, and Van Gogh.
I’m forty seven, going on futile.
Two thirds of my life ago, I was sixteen.
I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
Nancy asked me to buy her a ring,
told me her birthstone is fire opal,
her ring finger size seven.
I actually cried when I gave her the ring,
a round opal with six tiny diamonds.
She’s still overwhelmed days later.
I didn’t think we’d react this way.
There’s some magic in a ring,
a binding of concentrated love.
copyright © 2005 Carl Miller