One afternoon I went to Vashti’s place,
and heard her yell, “Carl!” from the window
of a Volkswagen Van filled with people.
“You want to hear some Indian music?”
They were leaving now. I had to get in
to even discuss what was going on.
For the first time in years, I wasn’t driving.
Vashti introduced me to the others
as, “My boyfriend!” in a loud and perky voice,
with mumbled footnote, “several years ago.”
The scene was all India cloth, incense,
meditation pillows, Buddhist posters.
Someone carried Vashti up the stairs.
Vashti explained she’d been having seizures
and had to stay in the wheelchair.
I sat beside her on a chair or stool.
Most everybody else was on the floor.
The performance was exotic and informal.
Instruments kept getting passed around.
Vashti held my hand when I wasn’t drumming.
The van’s owner wanted to go home
with a pretty long-haired Eureka girl.
So I got drafted to drive the van back
to Arcata with Vashti and her friends.
When I got home at three in the morning,
Rusty was still awake and wanted to know
what I did after the bookstores closed.
I told him I went to a free concert
and described the singer and instruments.
I didn’t mention Vashti’s trembling hands.
Maybe that couple snuggled on the sand
is the contents of the “Just Married” truck.
I should be careful who I envy.
I don’t know what their lives are really like.
I never will marry, I’m afraid—
taxes, health care, it just wouldn’t work out,
even if I got along well enough
with my love to actually live with her.
I saw Nancy this morning.
I know I shouldn’t feel this way,
but I’m really tired of her pain.
That fall down concrete steps
ended her career as a care provider
and minimized our relationship.
A damaged Nancy drives me crazy.
In sickness and in health?
Now I can never honestly make that vow.
Just give me back my wrenches and let me go.
A lone gull flies north.
The couple stands, starts to pack their stuff.
I’m sighing, remembering my travels
with Mary some thirty years ago.
Stuck in a summer of staying home,
outside walls of new rooms unpainted,
and old rooms need new paint.
Too much of the day it’s too hot
to make my walls turn blue.
I find myself lost on the internet,
or driving to foggy Eureka,
sitting under Woodley Island cypress
to paint a watercolor of the Carson Mansion.
Hey, at least I’m painting, right?
A month after I wanted to finish,
the house is almost all blue,
except for about a square foot
where the cat door used to be,
long closed because of raccoons.
A Jim Morrison biography makes me wonder
why artists have to be so unpleasant,
why people love them despite this,
why artists don’t notice and value this love.
I guess I have similar problems.
I’m saddened by things that aren’t very sad,
bothered by things that shouldn’t be annoying.
Now I’m hanging out on internet forums
with teenagers and college students,
playing a wise old man who believes in love,
discussing the romantic relationships
of a cartoon teenaged girl commando
who fights mad scientists on the Disney channel.
I’m locked into a view of love I question
even while I’m still building arguments.
My lover has a sweet smile and long red hair,
my sixteen year old son is living with me,
but I feel fundamentally alone.
How does this happen?
Perceptions of others mold and shape me
until finally the only way to change
is to disappear, which I don’t want to do.
It’s frustrating when some other person’s
understanding of me gets in my way,
but worse when no one understands me at all.
In October I asked you to take off your dress.
“Easier said than done,” you replied.
You were laid back on your bed,
each part of you held in place by pillows,
except your knees, on a pillow over my thighs.
You asked me to turn up the electric heater,
to help you remove your boots and knee brace.
You wiggled tights and unders off your hips.
I unzipped the dress, you pulled it off.
I put my glasses on to see the bra clasp.
You fussed to make the pillows comfortable,
spread your legs and welcomed me to your arms
for the last time before the operation.
Your neck, your back, everything’s getting worse.
Before this, the last time was July.
When we made love three times a night,
the details seemed unremarkable.
I miss the way you used to sit on top,
shake your shoulders to bounce your breasts to my lips,
grab my back and roll me on top of you.
There was one night we made love ten times.
I was past the age of that much interest,
but after I told you about an earlier love
who did it with me nine times in a tent,
you had to give me one more time than her.
Now it’s all about being delicate,
holding some of my weight off your body
while kissing your lips, neck and breasts,
savoring every rare and precious sensation,
not knowing when we’ll ever do this again.
Despite all I’ve done to make it solid,
this old bed creaks with every move I make.
Outside, waves of raindrops striking the roof,
the deep rumble of the flooding creek.
Nancy made me take her to Eureka,
the last Saturday before Christmas.
When did it become such a crazed affair?
A big part of the economy now depends
on people buying each other stuff in December.
Nancy spends way more than she can afford
then wants me to augment her spending power.
Two hundred dollars? and that’s not including
thirty five dollars for a new Costco card.
In Costco, the scooters were all in use,
so I had to push Nancy in a wheelchair
while dragging a shopping cart,
which stressed the bottom of my back,
while the very hard concrete floor killed my feet.
I swear we went through every single aisle.
Today Nancy wants to do it again,
all the evil little Garberville shops,
and never mind the curtains of rain
flowing over the edge of my roof.
What does she still want to buy for who else?
copyright © 2005, 2009 Carl Miller
Painting, “Carson Mansion, Eureka”: 2005, watercolor on paper, 9 x 12 inches, detail 7.5 x 9 inches.