I’m wondering where you are now
Married, or mad, or free:
Wherever you are you’re likely glad,
But memory troubles me

We could’ve had us children
We could have had a home
But you thought not, and I thought not,
And these nine years we roam

Today I worked in the deep dark tanks,
And climbed out to watch the sea:
Gulls and salty waves pass by,
And mountains of Araby.

I’ve travelled the lonely oceans
And wandered the lonely towns,
I’ve learned a lot and lost a lot,
And proved the world was round

Now if we’d stayed together,
There’s much we’d never’ve known
But deary books and weary lands
Weigh on me like a stone

(Indian Ocean)

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Page by Jeff Baker – View full size Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian Gary 

The old English gentleman
is dying, on a comfortable cushion
he choose earlier in the day
to lay out in the sun
after eating a noon time meal
without gorging eating little and slowly
Then with eyes mostly closed
clambered up the woven chair to the table
then crawled on the cushion
to the spot warmed by the sun
and I went out to see him
and his eyes were closed
his breathing was regular but shallow
he turned towards me,
or the sound of my voice
and raised his head,
his blue/grey coat scruffy
unkempt, ungroomed
He has been coming around for a few weeks
eating at the community table
and finding a place to sleep on some blankets
put out for cold old men in this winter
he got along well enough
with the other visitors
sitting at this desk looking out on the porch
at the level of the cushioned the table
I hear a small restrained cry
and a long exhale
hesitating at first, I go outside to see him
as his breathing stops the cushion begins to cool

I will always remember
the feeling of your soft fingers
holding my arm,
in a firm embrace

then a motion
using just your fingers
leaving your moist presence
on my arm

then the  feeling
of stinging intimacy
then your release,
over too soon

the intimacy of your touch
my fingers exploring
the lingering dampness
on  my arm

my heart racing
head swimming
I reel away down the hall
infatuated

what once was clear,
in stark relief, with details
engraved with diamond tipped tools, on a crystal plate
the smile, the colors of your eyes on a cloudy day,
the almost dimple in your left cheek
affect, produce heart pounding,
blood racing, trembling hands,
speechlessness, caring, concern
infatuation
embedded with the image
feelings return with the details when recalling  this image years later,
hand trembling at a gentler pitch,
heart racing  at a slower rate,  respectful of my age,
the color of your eyes were blue, no green, light then, no, dark,
and your hair was tossed by the wind
but was it long or short?
What once was clear is now covered
by loosely woven cloth,
not hiding, but obscuring details, 
that were once so clear

The scent of roses drifted through the warm summer’s night air
as the moon climbed, filling the reservoir with light,
a cat wandered by, stopped for a moment
to get a pet and a scratch, then ambled away,
wondering, or not, why a food-guy was laying in the grass
above the amphitheater,  in the middle of the night,
Why indeed? Waiting for a liaison, to explain a decision
to say good bye, hoping she would ask me to stay,
to not enlist and perhaps go to a country that people didn’t know about yet,
or just to see her, one last time,
to lay on the grass next to each other, letting moonlight bathe us 
she came as promised, late as usual, parking on the road
at the top of the hill, walking past the cat, busy in the grass, 
down the gentle slope to where I sat, 
sitting down next to me turned putting her arms around me
a long hug, and strong kiss, before saying hello, I was lost in her arms,
I wanted to hang on, to not make this descent into friendship,
but she had moved on in the spring,
so I decided, in my despair,  to leave and go far away
the air force, the army, the navy, seemed like the best way
even though it was 1965 and there was war
tonight, tonight was saying goodbye, I was leaving
I wanted her to tell me to stay, but lost my words
expecting her to know what I needed , without my vulnerable-self  exposed,
without me having to say anything, to save me from myself
to make everything all right, but she didn’t
and we hugged for a long time as the moon went away
until the first golden light of dawn crept over the horizon
she had to go before her parents woke up, so did I,
we parted saying all the right things, vowing to write
but feeling the weight I expected to be lifted, settle deeper in my chest
I left the next day, flying to Texas,
leaving my home and friends,
starting a new chapter, with an emptiness I could not express,
it was August 1965, I wouldn’t return for four years,
during those years the weight never lifted

Do you love someone?
and in return for devotion and longing, get notified
that you are just friends,  or best friends,
or even best friends forever,
and therefore, banished
to the friendzone
a box canyon,  with thousand foot walls
one tantalizing way in, full of unsaid promises
one way out, crawling on sharp stones,
beware
staying will settle like a boulder on your chest,
leaving will tear at you like raptors talons
until you can’t move,
cant breath
can’t live,
and finally, thinking  you must return to the box or you will die
today, the day of the heart,
are you listening to fables?
that the owner of the trap can’t find anyone
the world is empty
no ‘suitables’ and too many ‘settle fors’,
there is no one,  for them
why won’t they look around,
you say,
to no one
they have chosen to be alone,
blaming the world for not producing
their prefect partner
you also have chosen to be alone,
by being with someone
who has put blinders on their eyes
and you walk
the path of loneliness
together

“…its dangerous, stay off the rocks, you’ll slip and drown!” 
the keepers long dead voices, 
sounding in my mind as if they were standing right behind me even now
“No it’s magical!”  (when you’re eight)
At the far south end of the beach
where the land rose up and turned towards the ocean,
large rocks ,ballast to hold the road above, like a jetty
filled the corner,  and  ran out into the sea
when the tide was running in , the rocks got hidden
beneath waves , later when the tide was at the ebb
the rocks came back  , the crown, then neck, finally shoulders,
small pools teeming with wondrous creatures, at their feet
a boy could scramble across the rocks to get to the big pools
at the risk of slipping falling getting cut by sharp unseen things
and stand between the rocks in the small pools of water
and in these pools, become part of the magic
                       
hermit crabs scurrying out of reach, starfish silently watching,
muscles, seemingly easy prey, hung on against prying fingers,
small darters, tiny fish, too fast to catch, even when baseball caps were nets….,
aloof anemones, tentacles waving with the motion of the waves, whispering
“…stay here with us, don’t go home…”

Utter despair, overwhelming
hopelessness
tricked again like Charlie

the dimple in the wet sand
a trick, Like Lucy
pretending to hold the football

walking through surf’s residue
sea foam masking evidence
of a clam

dig, dig fast
dig deep dropping to my knees
digging with my hands, in the cold wet sand

nothing,
no clam
the hole filling with sea-water

the dimple was a trick

Morris Albert was a rough guy
strong, with huge hands
scarred from years of hard work

he had an explosive temper
especially when he was drinking
which, was most of the time

during the war he went to prison
for stealing jeeps and truck engines
headed, on Liberty ships, to Europe

the family was afraid of him
and tip-toed around
careful what they said, or did

he used to come down to Seaside
and spend weekends
at the summer house with his wife, my aunt

he passed his time drinking, playing cards
and digging clams, or fishing
on the changing tides

I was eight
when he started taking me with him
to dig clams and fish the surf