Local Walks

Alt Forest

Of late I’m walking more. I used to stride
off calories, for “science” told me so,
but that was bunk – I put that view aside
the more I read on fat. Today I know
nutrition facts the government suppressed
and corporations paid to hide from me.
I exercise so I don’t feel as stressed,
ingesting banished foods for energy.

I lately walk because I can’t resist
the sunlight piercing clouds, the call of crows,
the lambent air decanted from the mist
of mild mornings, how the ocean blows
on us like candle waft, and how the ground
informs my feet where power’s to be found.

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When I was young I married my best friend –
intelligent and masculine and true –
then ten years later made the marriage end,
but that was caused by us not working through
our issues – he had scars I didn’t see,
and I was fierce and driven in those days.
We foundered on the rocks hormonally
and otherwise. I had to quit or craze.

We neither altered essence in divorce.
Our selves we kept. To varying degrees
we each ignored or learned from it of course –
experience refines identities.
You say he lacked imagination? Nope:
it’s you who fail to give his story scope.

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Orson’s Eye View


“Even Grannies need cock.” Yeesh. I can’t believe I said it.

As soon as the words were out of my mouth I wanted them back. Kcoc deen seinnarg neve. Like that works.

And my tone of voice! Was that a wheedle? What kind of word is wheedle? What kind of guy am I?

Flashback 40 years.


I like this woman. I want to get to know her better. I think I’d like her in my life. Or something.

Sure I apologized. Immediately. I don’t remember my exact words – something like, “Oh God. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”

We seemed to get past it. We kept talking. It’s a bit hazy now, but I think I’d already touched her. Tried stroking her upper arm through her hoodie. She seemed a bit put off. I think that’s what prompted my stupid wheedle. A little while later she astounded me by leaning in and planting a kiss on me. It wasn’t tentative or forceful. Her mouth was soft and a little open. A nice kiss.

I don’t know why she did that. And repeated it a couple of times. Sure I responded. I tried to get my arms around her and I liked what I hugged. But then she backed off. I reminded her she’d initiated the kissing. She nodded her head but still backed off. Said she wasn’t comfortable proceeding any further.

I walked her home. Suggested we smoke something. I was carrying, but she had a gourmet selection, so I watched her roll.

She kicked me out shortly after that. Nice about it, but definite. She had to pack because she was flying to Portland the next day. She had some walking date with a gay friend and she wanted to get shit done before. I asked for a hug and got a warm one. I asked for an email when she returned and got agreement.

I could have asked when she’d get back. I don’t know why I didn’t. I think I got higher than she did off her pot. I felt disoriented when I headed away from her. Her directions to the station: “Two blocks west,” pointing across her street, “then turn south for about half an hour. Unless you’re a fast walker.”

“I am.”

“Then 25 minutes.”

Does anyone else give urban directions like that? South instead of left? I think I’m in love.

I like her. I do. I feel like I’m acting 17 again. And I’ll be 57 next week.

So she’s got a decade on me. I don’t care. I like that too. It’s not like I’m looking for a teacher. But I think Del will be patient the way a younger woman can’t. Anyway, she looks younger than I do.

I’m sure she’ll send me that email. Even if she isn’t interested. I know her that well.

That’s the thing. I feel like I know her well. And that’s more valuable than sex. So what the fuck did I say that for?

We had all of five minutes together the day we met. She sat next to me for, what? two stations?  In that time we exchanged a huge amount of information. Like she’s divorced and I’m single. We both live in small apartments. We’re into gardens. I’d had a rotten weekend. She was obviously happy. I told her about my current business. She said she still works a bit, in her own office.

She was cute. First hanging on a strap in front of me, then seated beside me, finally exiting the train while I watched, shooting me that smile. She wore black riding boots and tight black jeans, very well. She turned my mood around.

I knew I’d hear from her. Something about the eye contact. I was surprised when days passed. I stayed busy with business.

She wrote to me four days after we met. It was just a line or two. I sent her a long one,  with the pictures of my garden attached. Told her I had a meeting in Berkeley the next week and asked if she’d see me after.

That date didn’t work for her but after a bit of back-and-forth, we arranged to meet yesterday.

When I dropped my verbal bomb.

Fuck. Maybe I am still 17, but bald and long in tooth. I tend to think of my life as before and after the injury, but maybe in a way I’ve never moved on. I still wonder what I’d do if I encountered the assholes now. As far as I know, they’re all alive.

I wasn’t a virgin then, but I sure wasn’t experienced. Tracy and I had been together a year and were planning on college, et cetera, so yes we had done the deed. But it was hurried sex, and it was accomplished on the back seat of my old Chevy or behind the trees in the park. My sexual catalogue was limited to French kissing, breast-groping, and missionary-style fucking.

There’s nothing like a life-threatening injury to interrupt a young life. Okay, my life wasn’t ever in danger. But my eyesight was. And I did lose most of my right-eye vision. Two operations, months of therapy, a long bout of depression, and a half-assed plan to eat my shotgun.

I might have done it. But Shadow found me and brought me back to ordinary intentions. I flashed on an old story about a grieving retriever who never left his owner’s grave after the man died. I couldn’t risk that sort of future for Shadow. I took him back home and by the time we got there I’d lost my suicidal momentum.

What came after that wasn’t easy. I survived it but I’m not sure it made me any stronger. So I never got the experience of leaving home to live with other 18-year olds, in the ivory tower playspace between childhood and adult life.

I tried college two years later and lasted almost two semesters. But by then Mom had her MS diagnosis, so I did that year from her house. There was no time or space for a social life. Then I dropped out to care for her. By the time she died and I settled everything and enrolled at Cal, I was almost 26.

I was lucky then, finding my rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco. I didn’t mind commuting to Cal. But living that far from campus, being older than the other students, still in the throes of self-consciousness about my eyes, I was celibate as a monk.

Maybe I’m sexually retarded. Maybe I missed my prime years. It was nearly a decade between the fumblings with Tracy and moving in with Cynthia. I know I’m good at fucking, but we never got fancy. Cynthia never asked. No one has.

Del said she became an adult at five and a half. Something about a tonsillectomy. I wish I’d paid more attention. She has an idea that whatever age you are when you “grow up,” you keep carrying that age’s perspective with you.

A multiple choice deal for me. Did I cross over at three, watching my parents divorce? Or was it when I tried to pull Mom off the kitchen floor at nine? Age 12, when I told her I was going to live with Dad? 17? All of the above?

Yeah. Probably a little bit of all. Now I think I want to repress the oldest one. Send that asshole to his room…

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Morning Walk


I walked to work this morning when the sun
invited me, emerging as the mist
of morning drizzle passed. I could have run
some errands, written more, composed the list
intended for the day, but golden light
enticed me to perambulate so far:
a 90 minute walk in nothing tight,
without encumbrance, bus or train or car.

Through Elmwood, passing Rockridge, up the hill
to CCA and then for 30 blocks,
I looked around while striding and was still
inside, content to be without the box
of windshield, any screen or phone display
between my fancies and my eyes today.

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I’m Sorry


I stopped apologizing, called a truce
toward everyone who disagrees with me,
and challenged my habitual excuse
for fierce expression (“it’s my tendency”).
And after quelling quiet for a while,
without a stroke my center was revealed,
and I began exhibiting a style
my hurries and my furies had concealed.

Apologies are voiced in self-defense
or signify poor samples of an act.
To speak with glib regret just makes no sense,
and bad production stresses what is lacked.
I’m sorry, but you’ll never hear that phrase
from me again, enjoying selfish days.

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Exasperated with apologies,
I’m counseling my girlfriends to be proud
of getting to our age. We ought to seize
this opportunity to state out loud:

I didn’t buckle to the discipline.
I figured out a method to survive
as my own guide – my needy origin
promoted motivation.
I’m alive,
and that which didn’t kill me made me strong.
Don’t tell me, don’t police me, never seek
to bend me where my spirit won’t belong;
I’m stubborn, and I’d rather fight than sneak.

I’m sick of being lady-like. I see
no value in my own apology.

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Messenger Blame


I seem to be a worn cliche these days.
My brother’s wife’s consorting with a lover
and won’t take care or slow it down. She plays
and yet complains of him – she mentioned “hover” –
her own word – I told him so. I did.

And working with me makes her lose respect
for him she’s now attempting to be rid
of? Yeah, that’s it – nobody will suspect
there’s more to her betrayal than she claims.

I’m sure I’ve been the problem all along.
She says what hurts the most is I know all
about their separation. She maintains
it’s me, of me, from me, but that is wrong:
to trip herself does not excuse her fall.

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