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elizabeth and bob

Elizabeth (not your real name)

we were kissing

by the blanched light of a cheap floor lamp.

three-way bulb dialed down to nearly useless number one

i say nearly useless

the room was lit as if by candlelight

so, useless but for kissing by candlelight

you call that kissing

sprawled on a bean bag chair

faces dulled with rapture

no sale all purchase

wee hours.

through the window

occasionally glimpsed stars

shimmied in a desert sky

wavery lights arrayed over an oleander hedge

and glowing backyard pool

my parent’s house

my house and my parent’s house

in truth more their house than mine

I didn’t know from amortized

but its stucco and wood

surrounded and held me

cast a spell on me

in my unreliable memory

every room and every hour

are suffused with midday sunshine

people places and things

i can’t hold any more

though i didn’t care

to hold them then.

this tv room in near-dark

a display diorama at the Smithsonian

my teen feeling

of surreal gravity

wondrous and unrecognizable

is this happening?

our first dislocations

always at the behest

of sexual fumbling and half-light

you were on top

my 1977 shorty-shorts

working overtime

this was our first kiss

and would be one of our last

fueled by stars

in science class they'd said

we're made of stars

or 'star-stuff'

shut tf up we're not 'made of stars'.


your hard breathing

made me breathe hard, and so on

the feedback loop

had my heart flopping wildly

i could picture it ululating in there

i had concern

is this a heart attack?

is it supposed to vibrate like that?

can it be moving any blood in this state?

will this tear my heart muscle?

i actually wondered these things

through feverish

shorty-shorts tenting

chambered slosh-muscle

crazily on the move

in its little calcium cage

making of the moment

an oven I felt

would consume me.

is it possible to feel one's heart

abrading the sternum?


My dad walked into the room.

I’d heard him approaching

but like the startled

watchman on the Titanic

couldn’t believe my senses

nor the abject, impossible horror

of the immediate

and unavoidable cataclysm

my systems at full boil

registered movement in the periphery

is my father coming down the hall

at this hour?

Right now?



I said iceberg

iceberg. iceberg.

full astern godammit oh my god full astern

iceberg godammit oh godammit

this can't be

it freezes the blood



oh no

what an emergency

it freezes the mind

and the blood.

strips the gears

i had feared an unchoreographed

burst of telling semen

now I fear I'll vomit

where shall I turn my head

I can't lie here

and turn my head and vomit

Elizabeth and I freeze

like sparrows

she clutches my forearm to signal.

'I know', I clutch back



'oh fuck don't you think I know?' I clutch back


'oh my good god' I clutch back

he's in from the hallway

he's in from the hallway

he's in from the hallway

elizabeth, let go of my arm

he's in from the hallway

he's in the room with us

he's in the room with us

what's he doing

he's looking right at us

he's stopped in the murky lamplight

looking right at us

elizabeth let go of my arm

oh good god almighty oh my dear god

he's in from the hallway and in the room with us

he's in the dimly lit room with us

elizabeth let go of my arm

elizabeth you are cutting my arm

don't make me cry out

oh god he's standing right there

he's like a golem in the room

and us on the bean bag chair

frozen and clawing forearms

i see him in the very dim light

he is an indistinct

unmistakable figure

shirtless and out of shape

in baggy boxers

that tell a lifelong tale

two lifelong tales

my laissez faire dad

my vaguely loving but feckless dad

my orphaned unwanted dad

my dad in the next room like a kindly uncle

my dad who never threw ball with me

my dad who played cowboys with me once in 1966

my dad who couldn't say i love you

my dad who secretly drank

my dad who feared much

my dad who never took us on vacation

my dad who was scarcely a dad

my dad with his prematurely gray hair

my dad with his easy smile

and this adored young girl in my arms

a juxtaposition that compels vomit

I love her I adore her

so this is how one grows love

so this is that heat

heat like a sauna

so this is where sex and love intersect

now I believe it

clothed bodies throwing heat

my tiny 70s shorts struggling.


dad looked at us

a vaguely visible silhouette

in really baggy boxers

in my memory

a talking cat, a specter

a man alone in the other room

watching sports

wanna sit and watch sports with me Jeffry?

no thanks

wanna sit with me and watch this?

no thanks, I gotta go

you sure? come sit with me

no thanks, I gotta go, dad

come on, just sit with me

naw, I gotta go

ok,  Jeffry

always Jeffry with him

a helpful distancing formalism

disguised thinly as bemusement

now in his enormous boxers

by phony candlelight

I see the boy in my dad

I see the boy in my dad

iceberg iceberg

'what're you doing out here?' dad said

I remained frozen and silent

why? why? why? silent again

in five more seconds he said

'oh!' in a tone I'd never heard come from him


he walked on to the kitchen

turned right into the family room

went back to his bed.

i saw the boy in my dad

as if all the lights were on.

it struck me and then it left me

Elizabeth said

'i'd better get home'

yeah. let's go.

Zeus or Apollo

whatever titan runs this place

take me back

i won't ask again

when dad comes into the room

i'll run to him this time

throw my arms around him in the dim light

all the way around him

the man in his oversized boxers

will see a startled kid jump up

his skinny kid-arms thrown wide

it'll really surprise my dad

just take me the fuck back.

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