Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Next Right Thing

My neighbor came over to give me tomatoes
and some basil sprigs from his garden.
He seemed agitated as we stood in my yard.
He petted my little dog Bela as I held him
and then he touched my arm
as he said goodbye:
“I have to go make dinner.”
I have to go make dinner for my girlfriend,
for my loving partner
that you don’t have
and in our nice cedar-sided house
with our friends who come over
for barbeques and beer on weekends,
unless we’re camping,
are we camping this weekend or next,
maybe next.  Can you look in on Lola Kitty?

He petted my arm.
It has been so long since someone has touched me,
caressed me.
I went into the house and cried.
I’m trying so hard to do the right thing.
The post-it asks:
What is the most compassionate thing
you can do for yourself right now?
I consider a beer and the couch,
and crying it out,
but I do core exercises and yoga,
followed by a half hour’s meditation outside:
blanket down, blank me on the green green green.

Back inside I check some poems online.
There’s a post on Hemingway at Key West,
and I recall my trip there
with boyfriend long gone,
arriving at the grenadine sunrise
with the roosters and the cats
and being swallowed by something in that house
some feeling came over me under the draping crystal
chandelier, as my hands passed over the field guides
that lined the shelves going up the white washed stairs,

and then to Cozumel
where I was horrible:  anxious and bitchy.
I just wanted a decent cup of coffee
I just wanted everything to be perfect.
I didn’t know.
I didn’t know how to live.
I want to make amends.
I apologize to the air,
poor boyfriend,
to myself:
I’m sorry,
I didn’t know.

And all that is gone.
It seemed that I used to go
places and do things.
Now I just stay at home.
I’ve gotten so much better, though.
This morning I, perfect me, who
glides through life with ease and grace,
knocked over and broke a full cup of beautiful Mayan coffee.
I didn’t cry, or swear, or try to blame the dogs.
I just mopped up the brown and jade shards
and made another cup.
I didn’t know
I could do that.


  1. wow. what a journey, all the way from the neighbor doing it so right (so wrong!) to what - forgiveness? is it hardest to forgive the self for being the self?

    your lines, I’m sorry, I didn’t know. speak directly to the face of my own faults. who knew forgiveness was so difficult? and who knew that coffee could be mopped so easily? (and who knew the definition of perfect was so screwed up we have had our heads up our asses all these years?)

    wonderful story!


  2. I do not know why it takes so long to be the Comforter of the Self, satisfyingly. I am learning it, slowly. At 55. Today my heart knows a little, after practicing this for some years. We must love our self, because it is no one's job but our own. Yet. I turn again and again, looking for it outside the green of my own blanket.

    Thank you for this openness.

  3. Thank you both for your comments.
    I was unsure of this post because it didn't feel all that poetic, but it felt quite honest, so I went with it. This was pretty much a journal entry from August of this year. It was in a rather forgotten pile of comp books with Journal '11 written on the front. Huh, I wonder what's in this?
    I hope I achieved a balance of truth and art.

  4. These forays out of your perfectly-confected poems that reveal the despairing baker in the messy kitchen take art to the task of heart rather than the other way around; the next right thing may be the brutally honest poem that says out loud, "I, too, am a child of Heaven." After well-wrought urns, confessionals: eventually the souffle topples if the air around it isn't sufficiently cold to hold it up. (I'm guessing on that to make my point.) The courage to step naked from behind the poem is I think the only way to the poems of the heart. Yeowch and yay. - Brendan

  5. Writing is always the next right thing--when you can, when it comes like this. You don't know the life your words lead after they leave your pen, but every giving back mitigates--not just the bleedoff of one's own emotions, but someone else's pain, somewhere. Thanks for helping me through a difficult day in a difficult week in a season I loathe.