Continuing last week’s project of writing poetry on a theme with a friend, this poem’s theme is “Sharing Food (or drink)” and how that brings people closer together. You can find my friend’s poem here: https://thisisbeautifuldust.com/2018/04/25/table/.
The makeshift wall of glass between us
Invites, rather than divides, we two
Who have joined together at table
To share a moment and intertwine.
The bottle shrinks and the glasses grow
In fullness of health and tannic vivacity;
Dry mouths are whetted for conversations
That swirl around in our decanting minds.
We pour out libations of joy and mirth
Alongside moments of sobriety and warmth,
For we know our own temperant limits,
And here we will better know one another.
Nothing demonstrates so well
The frailty of this human coil
As when floating helpless on air,
Where hundreds, thousands, feet, miles,
Lose all their relative meaning.
What action could I now take,
What word should I here speak,
That would change fate’s mind,
That might tempt her to acquiesce,
And allow a man just one day more?
One day more to say what needs
To be said to those who need
To hear one last word of parting,
For peace at heart, if nothing else;
That is all I need ask of her.
But if there be words to give,
Let these few suffice for you:
What I have not said aloud,
You have already guessed;
In your heart, you understand.
I make no claim to natural ease with
Those connections that others find innate.
This human grace was never granted to me.
I feel myself detached from my fellow man.
And you, you give love so readily,
At the first glance, with many and most takers.
But you supplement that which is natural
With that which seems right in your own eyes.
In thus doing, you have run afoul
Of an edict you have never recognized,
A Law for which you were not afforded the veto.
Yet here, in the court, you find yourself accused.
And though I be not the judge,
I act the hung jury, trying to make sense
Of a Law I do not understand myself–
One sinner hesitant to condemn another.
What could I say to the defendant who asks me
The meaning of the terms by which she is being tried
When I’ve never defined them for my own life?
Are we judged by alternating standards?
I know the tension between assuring her
Of love and of requirements made upon her–
Requirements eternal and real and full
Of truth and love and grace, at first unseen.
How can one be required to give up
Everything that looks right and good
To receive what only looks to be
Empty promises from an unsure guarantor?
Could we trade places, you and I?
Let me be the one required
To forsake all I want and love
For all I reject and need.
Let it be you to whom true love comes easy.
My friend, my friend…
What I would not give for you to know this grace.
What I would not give to take your place.
I no longer know what this is;
I have named it too often.
Is this love, hope, delusion?
I submit I do not know.
Ask me to describe this to you;
I will beg for time–and patience.
Do you know more than I?
Instruct me on what I lack.
Show me the things I do not know;
Make me to understand them.
Is there hope for one lost?
Between us, surely you know.
You were recently born into this–
Untainted by lessons I have learned.
Or will your youth be our end?
Naivete, too, begets tragic catharsis.
Some day, this curtain will fall;
Pity and fear will pass away.
Is purgation too hopeful?
Then I will know what this is.
Does he now open himself,
The unbeaten swordsman
Who turned aside all past blades
And pierced opponents’ hearts?
Does he reach too far in the lunge,
Advancing on the empty fade,
Only to find the tip sharper
Than any point he had ever used?
At last, a worthy match was found,
But perhaps the new duelist
Is too familiar with the usual tact
And has perfected her defenses.
But submission here will not serve,
For it is the same defeat and death,
Whereas victory now need not require
The usual sacrifice–hers or mine.
So he stands, pointe à la terre,
Awaiting in impatient vulnerability
Her decision–to be or not to be–
For a newly redeemable heart.
Falling in love too easily, too quickly,
Is the curse I live under. ‘Tis a pithy
Love of mine that cannot seem to wait
For lover unknown to unlatch the gate.
I walk through, unbidden, unasked for,
Yet unhindered. Perhaps there is more,
So far unfelt; I will allow myself to hope
I have caught some meaning ‘neath the show.
There is time yet for our script to be rewritten
To pair this girl with boy who is far beyond smitten
By she whom all other leading ladies must surpass;
How lucky for us she was so perfectly and lately cast!
What else for me to do but to cast over all lines,
Angling for all my worth for only a little more time
In which we might better learn each other’s part?
Study my role, and I yours, ’til we know them by heart.
Hum with me a familiar, unplayed melody
And cause me to question how can it be
That I have not known you all my life
Who sings with me this music of the night.
If you’ll beat the rhythm with drumming fingertips,
I’ll pluck out the tune with a hand on your hip;
We’ll play ourselves an eternal song to dance through,
And only after it ends will you know how much I love you.
No great sigh of relief here.
No weight lifted,
Not unburdened or unladen.
Not tonight, or the last,
And not tomorrow;
So when will come
The next rebuttal?
Not against regret or pain,
But the loss of something
Good, gentle, kind,
Loving and loved.
A loss to later gain
Some little opportunity
With meager chance
Of finding the ideal.
Why else would any of us
Subject selves to grief
Time, time, and time?
And, I ask, to what end?