She smiles for a fine assemblage,
uniformly colors plain sounds,
and breathes in their visions,
creates art and does not know
that her beauty is seen and that
the elders are in acceptance
of a heart that silently beats.
Soft, swaddling, an unique love.
The spareness of her dogmatism,
the rigors of unseen quirks,
and the sobriety of perfect sense.
A humans eyes sparkle in the sun
as one diamond speaks finally
in the square in tones that pulse
the silence for parents who know
that living is being, and that
is all that it was ever meant
within a God whose quiet falls now
inside these people who can see,
but who do not learn much more
innovatively on the dangling earth.
They both gaze upon pure innocence.
She smiles for this minor group
with a heart that methodically beats.
Over the gyrating wheat fields,
the noon sky is plightless blue.
In Calgary, I sit on cracked concrete
and stare at his greasy tie rod hair,
his clothes smelling of liquor,
face with wrinkled years, body scrawny.
He awakes, glares at me, and pulls
his hands from under his head.
Blood is dripping from knuckles,
wrist as he gazes over the city
in a haze. He asks me, Dirt?
I realize then there is no soil
in this cow town. His eyes show worry.
The concrete neutrality does not care.
I do not want this Native missing
something his parents worshipped.
I have purpose beyond my dollars.
At a grocery store I ask a lady for dirt.
She points to potting soil. I run out
and open the bag. He reaches in and grabs,
grinds the dirt into his wounds.
He looks into the sky, pleads, Tanka,
heal my wounds. Heal all of them.
I leave without the bag of dirt, hearing
his chant, Tanka, be with me,
be with me when Ive taken a drink,...
Tanka, be with me...when I die.
The dried rolling fields are stilled
as nights sky becomes an angry gray.
Within the big masses we are plainly related,
we are descendants of nocuous progenitors,
migrators who modify our meanings, we
chant and wish for better and then die off,
come, seas rise, a huge
us and makes ashes, then we relatives spawn
we heaps of humanoids rise and feel
we know it all, the identities of
the closeness of distant mountains, aridity
the cries of us lonely visitors
begging to know all the whys yet only seeing
the answers to ones that are never
masses continue, swell, and the weight ceases
to be felt even though it is
the close alliance
between us is dismissed, love
having a price no one ever has enough money
to pay for, and a period completely sunders
into one and one, over and over the mess
continues silent like the thawing of winter ice,
colonists moan, work,
on a busy life before the simple,silent, ever
available dull tastecomes, the lapsing into the groggy and lasting
quietititude, as time gives its one weighty breath to the final word in
The day was about over, at least, for me. I wanted to catch the midtown bus, be home and in bed in an hour, watch some bad Saturday TV and be zonked out in fifteen minutes. The timer would click the tube off at eleven. Then all would seem fine and in line with my life.
Tired; but first I would use the urinal in the old department store, Fausts, and catch the transit bus home. With my plastic bags full of Christmas gifts I would step into the mens lav and do my personal work and perform a rite to end this boring, seemingly relentless American custom to spend money for the holidays, and then filter out into the cold streets of Dayton to find the bus stop and catch a noisy ride home to my apartment ten blocks east. A clerk helped me, pointed, whispered over there behind hosiery. I slowly walked to the always dirty destination. I opened the self closing door, entered and set the bags down.
No one other than me was using the room although it looked like it hadnt been cleaned in months. Single tissues of toilet paper dotted the floor. A small puddle near the ornate sink made the floor slippery. A few names on the walls bored me because no nasty comments were attached to them. I gingerly approached the urinal; one of those big, old ones with the lovely chrome handle and all white porcelain bowl, and began to unzip my pants. Then I spotted the name painted with fingernail polish on the side of the dirty toilet - J. Lawrence, 1968. My mind shifted into another mode, one in which it seemed my whole life took a slant that would never bring it back to the normalcy it experienced day to day in this mid-sized mid-American town. I felt I was entering a world of daydreams, beautiful episodes of the way life should be in a unfunky world.
I coughed when I unzipped my fly and began to let my waters run; just one cough in which afterwards my urine quickly flowed. The room with all its ornate fixtures resonated the sounds of the bubbly yellow wash. My mind got used to it, like it did every year my father took me and mom to Niagara Falls to see the Canadian side of the attraction. I laughed out loud when I began to think of Judy Lawrence and what I envisioned the first time we met at Oakwood H.S. in Dayton. She had just moved in from Kamloops, B.C. and was a bit nervous. Pretty and delicate and polite, she was introduced to me by my buddy, Mark Lincoln.
Judy said Good to know you, and I said, You dont yet, but you will. She laughed quietly with her right hand gently covering her soft lips. Mark left and went to class. I stared at her and smiled like I had seen a dream and realized it was real. She laughed again and apologized, and I said, For what? Judy said, I said the wrong thing. I said, You could never say the wrong thing, which reddened her cheeks and she retreated back into the crowd and found her way to class. I think I remember the class was Algebra I with fumbly Mr. Rowly. Later that day I waited around and watched her board her bus for her side of town. I stepped up to my bus and spent the slow time on the way home thinking about calling her and what I would say over the phone.
Judy had stepped into my life and I discovered I needed her and the feelings she gave to me. I also realized that I was not good at knowing whether the one I loved loved me. It didnt seem to matter to me. It was hard for me to know what the other one felt about me deep in her heart. I stepped into love and found out it was more complex for me to understand than any word problem in Algebra I.
I took the chance and called Judy that night. I found her number from calling around, and at the spur of the moment, I just buzzed her and starting talking. I dont even remember what I said. I talked fast, rattled on about school and sports and the like and barely gave her a chance to talk about Kamloops and her former life in western Canada. She was kind and let me spew on. At the end of our conversation she said she looked forward to seeing me the next day. After I hung up, I took time to evaluate the conversation and felt like it had not gone well and that I would probably never get her to smile at me again, or ever go out with me. Happily, I was wrong. Judy smiled at me the next day before her Algebra class, and she allowed me to take her out the next weekend. We went to the local Big Boy for a burger and fries, and then we went parking. I did not attempt to kiss her because I did not want to scare her. I took her home and told her I had had a nice time and walked her to her door. Love was beginning to blossom and all was well. Weeks passed. Judy and I were working out fine. I walked her to class. We dated every weekend. We kissed, soft and long kisses that tasted like love. I got to know her parents and we laughed over my dumb jokes and the sweetness of the pages of homework we would complete as our time together lengthened. My parents also got to know Judy and my dad even told me one night he thought she was something special. We walked hand in hand to every class on her schedule. All the teachers looked at us and smiled. Yes, all was going well. Then, the bottom dropped out.
News came down the line that Judys family was on the move again. Her father had gotten a higher paying job in Mobile, Alabama. Judy called to tell me. I just stuttered an okay and that we would keep in touch and hung up the phone. I took a walk and cried and asked God for reasons. The only answer I received was the quiet of the early winter when all the leaves are off the trees. The whole episode became a blur. I faked my way through classes and faked my way with Judy and our last days together. I never cried in front of her. I kept my bravery and made life keep going. Love never came to me again. I went on to college and never met anyone of any worth there. I gave up on Judy after some letters that I had sent to her never were answered.
Time rushed on and I never felt the way I felt with Judy again in my desperately disappearing life. Got a degree, worked, and earned enough money to have a nice car and a big TV set, and that was just enough to keep me going. Then this event, the urinal, and her name and the date. All the massive memories came swirling back. I started thinking about why the name was there, and what all this had to do with the date next to it - 1968. What did it all mean?
I talked to no one. My parents had both passed on years before, two years apart. Friends at work became just that. I never socialized with them outside of the job. Shopping for decent clothes became a pastime I did not enjoy anymore. Reading the newspaper became a way to waste time. Going to the library and taking out old novels became a hobby. Judy and her beauty fell away from me. Now she was back and I thought maybe she was back to stay. I made no effort to contact her. Her memory became enough for me. Her beauty tripled. Her voice softened and sounded alluring. Her personality became beyond any words I could imagine. I felt like my mind had married her. I came back to the urinal often, did my business, and left with male joy; a quiet way to live a life unfulfilled. Middle age made me understand that the sweetness in life, the true wonder is the memories of the way things were when times were simple and direct, and protected from the complexities of other peoples dismal worlds. The purest form of love was the memory of a girl who was perfect. Her life was controlled by forces beyond the yearnings of a boy growing up in a mid-American dream.
I never had a thought again about why her name was written on a urinal.
I went to see J. Lawrence, 1968, occasionally, to wake up her imaginary world and let it reside with the chaotic yet boring stillness inside. A world I choose to live.
Copyright © 2001 by Dan Gallik
Can Dan Gallik write
poetry, or bad haiku's,
Much better than me?