Taking Nancy to Bradenton was difficult.
Bad memories from her childhood were lurking
almost everywhere I wanted to go.
At least she was okay with Coquina Beach,
Bean Point, and Rusty’s favorite tube slides.
In the photographs she seems to be having fun
on the beach in her sundress playing with Rusty.
My dad didn’t wear his hearing aid
and responded to what he thought we said.
He let Nancy and I use the double bed.
I guess he managed to hear us making love.
He told me we seemed to be getting along well.
Then we visited her mom in Jacksonville,
who took us to the Atlantic Ocean beach
by way of every arcane side street.
We walked the wide flat sand between
the hotel resorts and the coiling waves.
The house Nancy’s mom and brother shared
was saturated with tobacco smoke.
I couldn’t the follow the long discussions
about all the people in their family.
Nancy’s third daughter, Ina,
looks more like her than the others,
long red hair, glasses, similar face,
but there the similarity ends.
Ina’s into Anne Rice Vampires,
gay and lesbian rights,
Boy George’s latest album,
choirs of Italian castrati,
and will discuss this stuff endlessly
if given the least encouragement.
She shows me her stories and poems,
which I find hard to read.
I recuse myself from criticism
because I don’t like the style.
Her stories about vampires
are cloaked with fashion statements,
filigree descriptions of velvet and lace,
but not much ever happens.
The poetry’s, “enigmatic images
floating in protoplasm,”
have a beauty with a dark edge,
but the meanders are hard to navigate.
I try to be careful with her feelings.
I don’t like the look
of those scars on her wrists.
Nancy has a black velour outfit,
V-neck shirt and stretch pants.
She wears it so much, I joke
that she’s joined the Viet Cong.
When we hug, it slides on her skin.
She keeps turning like a portrait
to show me more of her breasts.
I think the estrogen treatments
she’s taking for the hot flashes
are having other effects.
She’s amorous and childlike
till it starts wearing off.
Then she’s kind of grumpy
and I have to watch what I do.
I go to sleep before she gets home,
wake up hard in the darkness,
a warm mouth sliding on and off,
breasts against my chest,
a wordless kiss, a soft hand
pushing me inside something softer.
Nancy doesn’t trust her daughter, Ina.
I admit something’s getting strange.
Ina seems grown-up and articulate,
says she wants to move in with us, but then
why would she scar the top of Nancy’s dresser
with that big knife she always carries?
Nancy thinks Ina’s got a crush on me.
I think her interest is only literary.
Ina keeps saying she’s a lesbian,
photocopies stories about gay sex,
even makes me take her to San Francisco
to suffer through a Gay Pride Parade.
Nancy’s attempts to confront or communicate
fizzle out to mutual discomfort.
This relationshop was chaotic,
a delicate balance between her
being the love of my life
and my most awful mistake.
Now she’s gone again.
I’m calling the forget-me-nots
she planted in the garden,
so I won’t think of her
when I look at them,
but this doesn’t work at all.
magenta orange smear
wide sagebrush valley
dim distant mountains
sudden jagged flash
arcs from cloud to cloud
another hits ground
about a mile there
ahead almost black
Rusty worries that
one might hit the car
no safer to stop
bits of rain and wind
Crescent moon, soft breeze along the river,
crickets chirp and buzz, bats flitter high.
Bright red cliffs across the Colorado
turn dark red, then violet, then gray.
Rabbits hop silently to nibble grass tufts
near willow brush as thick as mangroves.
Fingers of rocks silhouette against vague rose.
Jupiter’s a quarter sky behind the moon.
Rusty and I went to a meadow
to see the eclipse of the moon,
the last of the millennium
visible from California.
The news called it partial,
but it looked complete to me.
The whole moon was rusty orange,
in the earth’s deep shadow but
lit by all its sunrises and sunsets.
Saturn was below to the right.
Also we saw the Milky Way
and reddish streaks of meteors.
copyright © 2005 Carl Miller