The sky chose to wear blue and the dog put on her boots and we went out walking. She sniffed the ground for scat as the sweet scent of lilacs wafted into her nostrils and mine. We walked down to the river running through the park. As geese paddled by we crossed the footbridge and turned west, walked to the second footbridge where we could see the log jutting out into the river which was covered with turtles, sunbathing. She woofed at them a little, but the turtles paid her no mind. They lazed and dozed in the midday sun, and dreamed their turtle dreams as I pondered what was left of my existence–my misspent, accidental, frittered away days. And then Chloe tugged at her leash, and we made our way home.
Through the Fog of Fifty Years
“Tonight I go out looking for you everywhere”
Chicago walkup dining room. My cheap table, chairs, previous tenant’s abandoned carpet (electric blue), her old cupboard. I recall, faintly, a chat there about poetry with a young man I’d met somewhere–I suppose in a bar. It was winter. I think we were a little uneasy with each other. But really I remember nothing much about that night except maybe he was blond and wore a heavy sweater. And the barely recalled conversation. In some way, undoubtedly, I admired him standing there in that stark room discussing (no joke) poetry. Dickinson? Larkin or Rilke? Had I even found those two by then? Maybe his, the young man’s, the talk of no great depth, surely. Did we keep up our guard? If we traded numbers, did I not call? Thomas James, I think that was you. Everything fits: time frame, geography, poetry. Did I not recognize the angst burning in your eyes, not sense the fitful ember of your body? Could we have become best chums? Could I have saved you from your gun, pulled you through that dark January with some thread of hope, given you daffodils come April? I read now Letters to a Stranger again, looking for signs (of what?), my long-gone phantom, my unknown from that not-to-be-reconstructed night. Dark questions are all I have of you. Echoes of your lines.
On the Rocks
It was for me the deepest of attractions, mine to you, the magnetism of a lifetime. I wanted to absorb you through my pores and make us one invulnerable body, one that could not be dissolved. But something went awry.
We had agreed to meet in a park or some other desolate place north of Chicago, but it’s way too long ago for me to remember any real detail. I had come from visiting my folks in their desolate place, and knew our meeting was going to be difficult, final in all probability.
You thought I had been dallying outside our intimacy, but that was just smoke. No flame, no coals, just smoke. Or maybe I was insufficient or annoying in some way I didn’t grasp. Maybe you had concluded our long-distance affair wasn’t going to be workable. I was crazy enough to think otherwise.
It seems we were shuffling our feet on stones too big to allow us to keep our balance. Teetering. We couldn’t get to the crux of the matter, couldn’t even identify it; couldn’t force it into focus, both just stupidly flailing. There was nothing I could fix.
The meeting took maybe half an hour before I drove off after some sort of grim, cursory farewell. One more flame snuffed out.
That’s not much of a memory, but large pieces of what had come before are clearer: our night at the Webster, how smitten I was, your pensive eyes drawing me in, your melancholy, your face, your shoulders, the entirety of your frame.
James Kangas has had poems in Atlanta Review, Faultline, New World Writing, The New York Quarterly, The Penn Review,West Branch, Yemassee, et al. His chapbook, Breath of Eden (Sibling Rivalry Press), was published in 2019.