The teenagers and I read some poetry, unpacking a season of comings and goings, locked in, wondering what happened, between childhood and growing up, pandemic and high school.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s message “To Any Reader” had been sticking with me all week.
From the house, he sees:
“You playing round the garden trees,
He has grown up and gone away,
And it is but a child of air
That lingers in the garden there.”
I flash to a moment year and years ago.
In Thomasville, where Dad grew up and we spend summers, playing in back.
Dr Kirk’s neighbor had a daughter, a few years older.
“Go talk with her,” he said. “They’ll make you lunch.”
Arriving, something was wrong and right.
She seemed older but talked like myself, much younger.
Development delay and kindness, she showed me her dolls and favorite bugs.
We played all summer.
That was my last long stay in Thomasville.
Before Grandad shuffled off, followed by Harriet, his wife.
I was already off.
Those childhood summers in hot Thomasville, sitting on the patio, looking at ants in the leaves of grass, cooking pancakes with grandad, playing solitaire with Grandmom, those summers had long passed.
I have no idea what happened to her.
Her kindness, the strangeness of learning about her, the lens to the world,
a teenager seeing it all as a child.
Playing all afternoon, looking at the world as she did.
Grateful all these years later for what she showed me.
Today, these friends are with me each day of my life, thinking, wondering what happens, why they come and where they go, arriving and disappearing.
Be glad you knew them, instead of regretting their disappearing, says Annie.
It all comes at us, the poems, encounters, the openings, the winds howling.
No vaccinations on Sunday.
A friend nudges me on Monday.
Try it again.
And then an opening in the Rockaways.
And then a week of stories.
The teenager wonders, well, how did I get here, posting the talking heads refrain on her jacket.
The other teenager finishes her zine,
“Who invented the Typical Girls?: The Story of the Typical Girls”.
We drop off a copy at Quimbey’s bookstore in Williamsburg, chatting about the how to make zines, looking at Goodbye Berlin and Giovani’s Room, talking about Sally and James, the stories which echo through time, perusing the zines, Gary Pantor and Kenny Scharf drawings, walking through the neighborhood.
Into Friday, the sun fading, we walk to Bushwich, looking at the pink sky, past a boarded up vacant lot, wondering what’s inside, on the way to Five Strides to pick up skates.
Bye dad, she skates away, disappearing into the subway, off to see a friend.
Back home I read my copy of her zine, in homage to Ari Up who joined the band as a teenager and departed this world in 2010, RIP, always in our hearts.
I read that Carmen Vasquez shuffled, RIP.
COVID still rages, a mysterious variant expanding, ravaging minds, robbing the kids of high school years.
At CUNY, online barriers and Bursar holds keep the kids out of classes, that shrink, as adjuncts lose classes, losses reverberating.
Our hears, our minds, our souls aching, hoping.
Its harder to see friends.
The little one and I talk about art with grand mom, listening to music, chatting to and from.
At Judson, we spend all service wondering about these chance encounters, as the years stumble by, sharing poems, meeting strangers:
John O’Donohue blesses the space between us:
That the unknown
What is that discovery?
“Poetry is the past that breaks out in our hearts.” - Rainer Maria Rilke
“Creativity means making something for the soul out of every experience.” - Thomas Moore
Martin Espada’s poems fall through the sky, a gift from a friend, recalling “Jumping off the Mystic Tobin Bridge”:
“Last night, still more landed here, clothing stuffed in garbage bags, to flee the god
of hurricanes flinging their houses into the sky or the god of hunger slipping
his knife between the ribs, not a dark tide like the tide of the Mystic River, but
builders of bridges. You can walk across the bridges they build. Or you can jump”
We can all walk or jump.
Corey and I chat about his father who just departed.
I remember meeting him at Clearwater a dozen years ago, chatting away, when
Corey lent me a ten-dollar bill so I could buy the teenager an ice cream.
That ice cream saved the day, feeding us through the rain as Taj and Pete played.
And the train took us home
It snows all night, the stories of the arriving and disappearing, lives coming together and moving into something else beyond.