Free Verse Poems

 

#1

H.

I

The telephone. I was nervously ill.
The middle of the frozen street.
Walking miles in the quiet screaming snowstorm
For a cheeseburger, from a dead Pontiac Grand Prix
But warmer than a down blanket in Norway
With the thought of you.
Come Spring, your red car racing away with my dreams.
A black top blocking my view, a full court press.
Deep, dark, ocean like eyes that photos couldn’t capture,
But my heart could.
A smile like a rose.
A rooftop kiss, cool night air, and the Moon smiling.
Drinks and the bar.
The grand hotel below
A few blocks away from where they shot Kennedy.
And then I was whisked away by that rushing river far south of Dallas,
Far south of Austin even,
And you blinked at me from atop a skyscraper
With your emerald eyes filled with sparkles
Of Pouilly Fuisse .
Then lonely bus ride back to the beginning
Of the long, embarrassing message,
That innocence could not cut through.
The empty campus after graduation. Hot and bright. Everyone scattered.
You’re roommate, the little feisty blond,
Who liked to party with my friends.
After you had left, I spoke to her between the glass,
Trying to get her to bed,
But I don’t know what we said.
The cookies.
Breakfast in bed.
The airport.
Unable to tell P. or S. before they left. It didn’t matter anyway. They would have laughed.
But that was fine. That was their job. That was part of everything.
I wouldn’t have wanted them any other way.
John throwing up in my car after leaving the bar.
Zipping down the Toll-way with Morrissey’s melodies gliding on the streetlights
About what you said… And how I felt…
I knew the music,
And the booze, and the living on the edge
Would somehow get me through
To the other side of that dormitory, that Frat house. Or so I felt.
But I couldn’t pull it all together.
Fraternity Mixer after Mixer after Mixer.
Taco Bell at 3am.
A light in your eye born in a star
That kept ours, burnt out by cigarettes, Weller & Water, Pot, and snorting ecstasy,
Alive.
Strange, how having it fall apart seemed so delightful, like affirming the World
Was a mystery. What did John Mellencamp say, “You made it hurt so good”?
That was your gift, and somehow, I still have it.
Falling in love back before it was cool.
Now, that, for 14 weeks was living.

II

I can’t say what came out the other side of it.
Maybe just biggest can of whoop ass that ever landed on University Park,
But within it there was what Aquinas would call Integras, Conventietia, and Claritas,
A life of its own.
Sometimes when I go back,
And I pass my gray apartment where that poor cat I thought I rescued from the Piggly Wiggly
Was run over by those drunk sophomores,
(And I know those son of bitches gunned it through that God forsaken alley,
But who are we anyway?, I’d like to kill them, but they killed themselves that night, I bet.)
And I walk through the neighborhood elms and oaks, and cherry blossoms,
And green Sweet Gum leaves shaking by your little red brick house,
Remembering your little white door that squeaked when it swung,
Thinking it was the threshold of life,
Sometimes when I drive down that street, like driving into a dream,
I hear the trees, and the leaves and the wind and the sunshine all whispering,
A barely heard murmur, unintelligible to this brain that wants to form words,
A murmur of the heart,
What it is that you were trying to say.

-Stephen Pickering © 2007

#2

The Red Tower

At the wedding
I felt strange but handsome
On the wrong side of the aisle,
All my old friends smiling,
Feeling tingly,
Wondering, Do I look better or worse?
My hair slicked back,
New blue wool suit blazing,
Jesus and the Disciples walking around,
I thought, Surely, they think I’ve improved.
I kept gazing over my left shoulder,
Feeling tense as the groom’s family tried to figure out
Who I was.
Everything was bright, and I caught Janice’s face across the aisle
Warm like a fire, looking at me.
Her husband was like a statue next to her.
Then the doors opened and the procession began,
And all the wooden pews turned and looked back.
Then I don’t remember much about the ceremony
Except I loved that church,
That beautiful gray stone Catholic Church.
It looked like it had been transported from Sauvignon.
I also wondered why she had invited me,
Though I felt strangely proud
Like someone who had recovered from a wound in the war.
Oh, well, afterward we went out into the cool
June night
Down the steps of reason
Back into the plane of our little town’s world.
I looked back and thought just for a second I could hear
Behind the gates of the darkened garden
A boy’s choir singing,
Releasing pigeons that would fly all the way back to the Netherlands.
The people and the lights pulled me towards the top
Of the bank building to the reception.
But in my mind’s eye,
As real as the first time I fell in love,
A little child walked forward between some dunes
Of Russian snow.
And from the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg
To the castle of the Duke of Marlborough,
Distant horns blazed in recession.
Then feeling the face of all my old friendships
Turn and smile
Like the moonlight that flickered in the shiny glass,
All the royal gifts within me
Became a Church and Castle of their own.

(c) 2007 Stephen Pickering.

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