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Tonight I sped out across the dry August fields, eager to get out of the city, to the familiar worn road over the bridge through the stable– home.  Home and the kennel flanked by silver poplars caressing the sky, unaccountably prolific in just that space— a canopy over the cluster of pens, the small red barn that once housed fat Golden puppies.

We wore ourselves to the bone back then.  Now we just talk, and part to rest and reconvene, sipping fake beer, listening to jazz.  Today, we noticed locals in costume milling around the micro-brewery and clogging the roads in some arcane fete.  Tonight we speak of raccoons in the dumpster, the raccoon summers ago that tried to climb into my arms.

We listen to black mama blues and jazz and the saxophone and the keening obo of Phillip Glass, and more blues and jive and the poetry of jazz we imagine unfurling its blue smoke from the doorways of city clubs….

We are not there, we are here, and I remind you of the day you looked at diamond rings in Monkey Wards, and that I was terrified.  Why, you asked.  I don’t know; it was just scary that we fell into it at two weeks out from the day you draped yourself over my picket fence and said  you were proud of me that I was a published poet..

Engaged and then wounds and broken trust and now some kind of detentes cradling us and giving us back to one another.  Out of the chaff left by heartache gilded moments when it worked, nuggets in a flower-covered box, at the back of a drawer.

If there isn’t a lifetime and a half of water under the bridge that we cross daily, poised to fall, mood indigo of water wandering away, tributary and moon river and old secrets, tiny bones and forgive me the ring itself, tiny sapphire flanked by two tinier diamonds,  in the muddy bottom.

We aren’t on a front porch in side by side rockers yet but it feels like it; you put the cats to bed in the study they’ve  demolished, and the soft pale golden with the dark eyes plays with her slobber-covered bear and we keep talking.  What we haven’t said and don’t think we should say stutters away across the carpet, residual shadows from an imagined Eden.

Then it’s time again for me to pack it up– pack over the back, walker out and down the steps and into the truck and out again Tess beside me to the highway, a clean black unwritten slate, the lights from state patrol cruisers far off– safe for now.

Always a game to get home in one piece, gas gauge on empty how many days and nights left, better not go there and so I come in and put my fingers on the keys to see what improbable vision of redemption might crest in me so that I distract myself, writing of the ordinary but it isn’t, is it, nothing ordinary about my having landed here right next to the nursing home I fled from wondering if she’s still alive my comely Kathleen, she who stole my heart two years ago, dreaming in her bed across from me.

Intolerable to think that she’s just feet away behind two brick walls and a privacy fence, curled up, withering up, and I just can’t go back in there just now.  I can’t.  I was there and I sang to them and made them laugh and I wept in the dark in the arms of a nurse and then one day I fled to try to come home to the stronger version of me I prefer to be, but it’s often impossible, to reach inside and turn off the switch on the doll-baby within, she with her incessant demands.

Time to go, time to distract the eye, the mind, the heart–, then dance, obos and trumpets, seduce the clouds over the foothills so that they soften and bring to the point of surrender all unforgiving ground.