Dangerous things include:
Necking in the 1950s
Taking a job as a logger
Quoting your own poetry
The last thing could be the most dangerous of them all, but I’m going to do it, as I feel a kind of heady, delirious courage at the moment. I have been packing and moving boxes since dawn — right about when it began to snow. All the possessions have been transferred. I am in a new home. I no longer have keys to my little Capitol Hill treehouse.
Here’s the quote, from a poem called “A Cake/For The Fall”:
“The lines on our faces are maps the clock puts there/the forehead shows that path of the first worry/the cheek charts the hardest years/laugh lines are easy landmarks/but beware fatigue at the corner of the eye, my son/it belies the optimist’s gaze/I can spot a broken heart in a happy man a mile away”
The poem was written many years ago and when I wrote it I thought I was writing about a boy, but now I think I was writing about time. Days like these — periods of time like these — put lines on our faces. Today I picked up the third? fourth? duffel bag of fabric (Pendennis tucked into one of them for safe keeping) and I fumbled for the new set of keys for the apartment that is ugly and cramped compared to my darling little rat-infested house. I stomped snow off my shoes. I looked out at the view that I have; I saw not the grand dome of the Capitol Building but square, squat buildings that look like boxes, and a highway, and an empty lot. The apartment itself is a box inside a building that looks just like the others out there. Only the snowfall was familiar as I pressed my nose to the glass.
It’s not so bad. It has its charms. But oh, I cried.
And I thought about my poem because I remember when I was a kid and I’d look up at adults and think, “They look so weird and different from me.” It’s the lines. Adults have lines in our faces, and even if they’re not wrinkles yet, kids do not have even a whisper of these. They don’t have lines because they haven’t moved twice in a month, in winter, after love faltered in a different apartment in Manhattan. They haven’t forwarded their mail. Again. Of course, I don’t want any of that to happen to any kid, but it will. It’s the law of nature, little dude, little miss, and you, too, will grow up (and grow old) under the law. But it gets better after it sucks for awhile. That’s a law, too.
Tomorrow, my sister and her fiance are returning home from their 10-day trip to India. What stopped me blubbering on like a dweeb today was remembering that I want so many, many things, but most of all, I want them home safe and sound.