On seven twenty-seven seven years
ago, I posted entry number one,
anticipating: what? my vainest fears
were comments I’d need answer. There were none,
of course – not worth a count, at any rate:
there’s nothing driving traffic to the site.
Too few like poetry, or dedicate
sufficient time to finding who writes right.

I’ll take a break, amass some stock again,
consider networking, and write some more.
Perhaps I’ll post one thousand sonnets when
I’ve mined enough to upload, or ignore
the drive to brandish, and the lust for feed-
back from the strangers who agree to read.

Not quite true…

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Del’s an attractive person, but no one would accuse her of beauty. Her facial features are on the large side: not chiseled or refined. She was born a brunette in a culture that favors blondes. She grew hands and feet that were above average in size, and she required corrective lenses till her cataract surgery. That was eight years ago. Del is 67.

She walks well. She has excellent posture. She developed an outgoing, laughter-loving personality to compensate for her lack of coltish youthful loveliness, and that has aged better than beauty. She garners enough admiring glances from strangers to know she could look worse.

But she hasn’t often been propositioned, approached, or harassed the way prettier girls report. No stranger has ever exposed himself to her. In fact, she numbers the occasions of sexual insults at two.

When she was 16, she was propositioned by a well-dressed black man, on a cable car. She was shocked at the time. Mostly because she had her 13 year-old brother with her! How would that work? She practically spit in the man’s face as she voiced, “You creep,” grabbed her brother’s upper arm, and got them off the conveyance.

The scarier event occurred three years after that. By then she was a sophomore at Cal. It was a bright spring day, and she’d spent it in San Francisco with her roommate and a gay friend of theirs. They had hitchhiked into the city and that’s how they returned to the East Bay.

The guy who stopped for them was oldish, white, and drove a two-toned VW van. Glen got in the front seat and the two young women rode behind. The driver exited 80 at Ashby and that’s where the friends split up. Del was heading to her boyfriend’s place on Alcatraz, which was the direction the driver was going. Her friends got out of the van and planned to thumb a short ride north.

The driver invited Del up to the shotgun seat and she moved forward. He put the van in gear and they left her friends. After he made the expected right turn and proceeded a block, he pulled over, looked at Del with a leer, and spoke. “Let me see your panties.”

She doesn’t remember if she said anything before opening the door. She was astounded – the demand came out of nowhere. She was perplexed – even if she did flash the dude, what would he say next? But mostly she was active – right hand levering the door handle, right foot over the running board and to the ground, when the driver blurted, “No! Wait! Oh jeez. I’m sorry. Get back in. I’ll take you where you’re going.”

For what it’s worth, she thought then and after that he was sincere. But she jumped out of the van, shooting “No way!” from her mouth like bullets, and striding forcefully toward Ashby without a backward glance.

Half a block later she broke into a run. By the time she’d traversed the rest of the distance to where her friends still stood, she was shaking and shook up.

That’s it. Nothing worse. But of course she retained the memory.

Half a century passed. She finished college and made her way through her reproductive and earning years as well as she could, which was well enough. She came out the other side with two grown children, four grandchildren, an ex-husband, and a decent-enough retirement account that she didn’t have to fret about basics. Her relationships with everyone but the ex-husband were good.

She’s been single for half of that time. She describes herself as enjoying her 26th year of marital recovery. She wouldn’t mind a little company, especially some weekends and for traveling, but no one is introducing her to an eligible companion, and her tentative excursions into senior Internet dating have not been fun or fruitful.

A month ago she met a man. They were on the same crowded train, and had a fast, two-stop conversation. She exited with his card and the notion that she’d like to talk some more.

They met deliberately a couple of weeks later. She wasn’t as impressed as she had been at first. She learned that Orson was a sad soul. That shouldn’t have surprised her – for their initial conversation she’d been almost manically happy (coming from a fun, wine-laced lunch) and he’d confessed to being down. She must have been misled by his quick questions and answers.

He was ten years younger than Del, less read or educated, and not as attractive. She’d taken a first impression away of “beige,” and that continued to resonate for her. He was pale of skin, what hair he had seemed colorless, and although he wore jeans and a gray long-sleeved shirt, he somehow left a khaki-toned image behind.

On the plus side, he was over six feet tall and not fat. He could walk. He was into asking and answering. He made it clear that he wanted sex, which was both flattering and bothersome. Del didn’t care to fuck Orson, but she wasn’t averse to getting to know him better, and she thought something might come later. Maybe. She was comfortable telling him that. He seemed to accept it.

They got together again. He brought his dog over to meet her, and they took a long walk. There were no lulls in their conversation. Each had plenty to say. Del found her own words more interesting than his, but she didn’t have a bad time. When they returned to her place, Orson walked up behind her and began rubbing her neck and shoulders. It felt nice. He nuzzled her neck and told her she smelled good. She didn’t stop him. She let him turn her around then and kiss her. But as she pulled back, he took her right hand and tried to move it downward between them. She realized he wanted her to feel his erection. She spun away from him and blurted something about his arrested development.

He apologized. She said okay, and indicated that she’d see him again. But maybe not. She thinks of him daily, but can’t find it in herself to be eager to see him. She likes describing herself to him, in her head, but she has to admit she isn’t feeling the need to speak the descriptions out loud.

Mostly, though, she’s hesitating because her mental image of Orson bears a striking resemblance to that long-ago dirty old van-driving man.

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As much as I love winter weather, chill
in summer seldom suits my mood. I look
outdoors and don my robe and wonder: will
I run the heat? Curl up and read a book?
But it’s July. The sun is up at six,
a dawning glare beyond the overcast.
I shiver through my exercise and fix
my eyes on poetry and break my fast.

By noon the shadows start to manifest;
they sharpen as the air takes on a blush
of yellow. First I’m like a cat: sun-blest
ecstatic comfortable, but then a rush
of vigor takes me. Soon I cannot sit.
I’m solar-powered now I’m old and fit.

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It used to be, as soon as I felt strong,
as if I’d win whatever I desire,
I got a cold, or fell, or something wrong
befell me, like that spurt of strength was dire
prophecy I’d suffer sick reverse,
a harbinger of brilliance doomed to pale.
I’ve learned distrust – such energy’s a curse
that signifies my health’s about to fail.

But what of now? For weeks I’ve felt within
a blooming potency that drives me out
of doors, that speeds my pace. Now I begin
to think of sprinting when I walk about.
This time tomorrow, I can sure assert,
I won’t be sick or weary. I won’t hurt.

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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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