"When, In the Sidewalk Cracks"

The first poem in the series, "When, In the Acres of Leaves", was inspired by the graphic novel Blankets, which dealt with human closeness and the inevitable loss. The poem was about the loss of first love, in its most pure and most childish sense. That twelve year old boy whose name we drew hearts around. The older female cousin that we were convinced we were going to marry at age 10. A later poem was written, detailing the loss of our first lover, but also the loss of ourselves when we become a lover.

I've known I was going to write a third poem to the "When" series. I've actually had a good chunk written for a while, but could not quite get it to fit the essential meaning, the loss of mature love. While in the middle of a chat with my sister-in-law, Alicia, the other night I came up with an idea. I would give the poem to her. She had full reign to change lines, to critique any little thing, and to, if she desired, tell me to scrap the whole thing. I told her only that she had to leave the ending alone. As a final request, she was to write one line that I would put into the poem virtually unchanged.

I, of course, would have the final say in any suggestions she made, which she was cool with.

What follows is the completed poem, the end to the first trilogy (there is a second trilogy that intersects this one in theme, but is more directly sexual in nature...that she will not be helping me with...heh). It is co-written, and she shares writer's credits. The line I asked her to come up with is much the final line of the poem (I have changed punctuation). That was the bit I did not tell her, that I would end the poem, and the series, with whatever line she gave me. Heh. I didn't want to pressure her too much.

Collected heat catches into the meter of the rain drop beat, Rhythmic and quiet, whispering the forthcoming of a fog tonight. Grey, he sleeps away on a sodden green park bench, And waits the coming of the blue sky. When, in the sidewalk cracks, the water flows--filled with Half-born storms And tepid steam between some stratospheric cold And the lingering afterthought Of summer breath mixing in with the unsatisfactory deluge, Annoying in its lack of full temerity, The torrents swim into once rusted grates, now clean, And then deep into brackish pools Afloat in the shadows where they are best forgot-- He finds himself in no time at all, just a string of pearls Wrapped about his mind, Shoddy to his tastes, feeling fake, Baubles barely worthy the swine. And that last, sweet taste of lavender and sweat he can feel On his tongue, in his hands, and on his lips awakening Ancient kisses by pantomime, Though their glory is long gone, And that once rose petal scent in dawn's wide yawn, Which was his to adorn in love and in downcast eyes Full of quiet leaves of autumn's bright, temporary hue, Is only as much as As the beading moisture Pouring from the cuff of his pants leg and down, Deep, with its brethren; To be with those forgotten things like second hands And secondhand toys--broken into bits by covetedness screwed To some midmorning sticking place-- And the childlike spiders and the masquerading ants, And the starlight hinting off meteor sand long Collected into the white below and That one shout, where the young girl of seven was so Excited that she could barely contain herself (Looking just like her with the eyes and him with the hair), As though she was a stormcloud, too. The afternoon pours on into the dusk and the red Sky abides its mask on And on. He waits, Saying nothing but remembering the sight of these things, And other things-- Grave sites and hearths and trees and doorways closed Or slammed and windows with the shallow curtains, Silk and caught in the cobwebs and mimosa blooms-- Long since past the care of his heart with which he might Have, himself, been overwhelmed with joy Or enraptured by the rapturing of a brief, Satisfactory, Moment while no one cared to look or hear but them, And their blushing, secret giggles and the purity Of what it meant, really, in the quiet mornings Before the tiring days. He waits for a night sky now, in his drenched slumber, Or for dreams with their cautious re-enactments. For a second chance he does not actually want, too tiring To relive a life that will fade. For a time, his eyes open and looks up, Where there might be stars, if there were anything, And the Spirit moves into him, the waters Flowing over the deep... Until it cannot possibly rain anymore.

This poem written by W. Doug Bolden and Alica Ridout.

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