I wrote this poem decades ago and found it yesterday in an ancient journal inside a forgotten box at the back of a cabinet, but the time and events it describes were not so obscure in my memory. The highest and lowest moments tend to stay in the mind and heart as well as that old box stayed in the cabinet.
I remember reading a poem by Charles Bukowski wherein he attempted to answer the question most commonly asked of him – “How can I become a great writer?” He gave advice in the form of a list, but the only piece of advice that repeated was “Have a stormy love affair.”
Pain makes us think, thinking makes us wise, and wisdom (i.e., lessons learned) gives us something worth writing about.
Again, I lie down tired but empty
as though I have walked a great distance
through cold and dismal streets.
I have grown used to sleeping alone.
Love dies so slowly, in little ways.
Separate, you have given me more
than I ever would have allowed you to
Loneliness and regret
are harsh but patient teachers
with cold hands and gentle eyes.
With no more you to hide in, the mirror is too clear.
Every flaw is exposed
and I can’t bear to look for too long.
But when I force myself, for my own good,
a man with haunted eyes looks back at me
and I wonder what compels him
to chase all the goodness from his life.
How much can be learned from the night?
I turn away from the mirror and go on with my day.
And love dies a little more,
but only the amount that living demands.
Six months after you left,
I took your photo from the shelf,
but not from its frame.
I put it, frame and all, in a box,
at the back of a closet.
Today, a little stronger,
I used the frame for a new photo
of some more recent, peaceful moment,
and filed yours away,
to be taken up again sometime, years from now,
when the person pictured there
is little more than a stranger to me,
someone I once cared about.
The laughter and the pain,
the peace and the mayhem
will be all but forgotten.
And the love . . .
it will be dead by then, I suppose.
The bouquet of flowers you collected
hung on the wall until only last week.
I took them down
knowing that what they had represented
had withered along with them.
In reality, the colors
created in that long-ago springtime
faded the moment you left.
I just refused to notice.
Gathering dust, they hung on the wall,
a museum piece from some happier time.
They were brittle in my hands
and some of the buds crumbled to the floor.
I walked to the trash but,
cursing myself, my heart,
I stopped, unable to throw them away.
I put them in a vase instead
as if they were still alive
knowing it was not healthy,
knowing I should move on,
take another chance, etcetera, etcetera.
I knew, but I put them in a vase anyway
on the shelf where your photo used to be
to be ignored for just a little while longer.
Love dies so slowly,
in little ways.
Because if it happened all at once,
we would be swallowed up by darkness
and crushed beneath all that tragedy.