The drawing power came from the fact she was a great poet, but it didn’t hurt she had great legs, too. It’s a hard thing to find, a great poet with great legs, but she walked the earth with grace and beauty, both physically and metaphysically. I’ve never been much of a poet, at least not since 1981 when a woman broke my heart and I burned every poem I ever wrote to that point. I keep meaning to get back to it one day, and the Poet nearly drew me back into that world without trying to do so. I could have followed any path walked by those legs, really.
The day I burned my poems I burned a lot of other stuff and mostly it was stuff that had sentimental value. I burned all the letters all the girls had ever sent me in High School. I burned the cotton rose a girl had given me the day she told me she was pregnant, and would marry the father of the baby. I burned the photos, all of them, of the woman who had hurt me, and I burned the memories of a very short lifetime that seemed to reach out into infinity at that point. Pain doesn’t have a past, or a future, only a never ending present. For the young it is worse, much worse, for they do not realize how bad it can be, really. I despise the term “puppy love” to disparage the depth and scope of a young person’s love. I say we give them the benefit of the doubt, and give them the benefit of the love. Toss them in and let them swim, or sink, and if they fail then they fail, as we have, but we never once considered just giving up because it might hurt too badly. A person’s right to love, and be loved, ought not to have an age limit on it. A man that is twenty-one years old might one day regret a fire that consumed his past, such as it were, but if he is honest with himself, he will never regret the fire that consumed him to put him in the path of that pain. I have never regretted loving any woman, even if she tore my heart out and left me to die with it bleeding n my hands, washed only by the tears from my soul. You weren’t really in love if you wouldn’t do it again, knowing you’d get burned. It’s why people keep going back to those who are bad for them.
If you are a guy, and you have nude photos of a woman, and even if that woman doesn’t ask you to delete them, but you do, because you realize you caught her in a moment of heat when she said yes you know you care. I liked them, for the Poet had a nice body for photographing. Not this airbrushed not a blemish anywhere type thing you see displayed in magazines, but the body of a woman who had lived an honest life, and had tried to take care of herself, even after childbirth. The surface of the earth isn’t smooth and perfect, but it is beautiful in each and every hill and valley, every mound and dell. The Poet posed for me, and allowed to take memories of her body, but later, after the fire had died down a bit, I could tell something was bothering her, and I asked her if it was the photos, and she hesitated before she spoke. Before she could say anything I got the camera and we lay there together and deleted them, one by one, and there were a couple that were truly perfect, but only because the Poet was who she was. The one of her in silhouette is one whose destruction I will answer for in the afterlife if Art is valued at all. The shadowing was dreamlike, much as she was to me.
I wake up earlier than anyone else alive, and one morning I awoke with her and realized she didn’t know I was watching her sleep, and I could have lay there forever, and ever. I uncovered her body just enough to see her nudity and I knew if she awoke she would not want to cover up again, but would lie there and allow me to see her. Nudity wasn’t as revealing as her work was, her poems, and when she included the emotion I had formed inside her heart, it flattered me to see it in print. As a surprise, I slipped one of my shirts into her suitcase after we had spent time together, and she called me and cried when she found it.
So there are no more poems left to burn now. I read the poet and I have watched her artistry grow beyond even what I thought it would be one day. We are estranged forever, she and I, as I was with the woman I built the fire for thirty years ago, a decade longer than I had been alive at the time. There was a moment in time, five years after the fire, when someone offered me the phone, the handset anchored by a cord, and that person asked me to talk to the woman, to befriend her again, but I would not, and less than a year later she was dead. The ashes were long gone, cold and black, and bitter, and I taste them still, and will, I think.
There are no photos, no poems, no memories but those that fade over time, and I wished that I had a poet who could speak for me, who could reach inside of me, and bring this forth back into life. I think the Poet, were she still speaking to me, would bid me to write this myself. And for my part, were she to listen to any words I could say, I would simply say the fire we had built endured, and did not destroy, and the pain created, and did not take anything away, and the time has not ended, but like the call of a sea gull, remains. I would say, “Thank you.”