8.21.2016

it's not that linear. Only carry on this talk with someone else.

Day 19: "Dinner"  
On the 20th of September, 2012, I went on a shopping trip with this guy, and afterward we went out to dinner at the steak place in town. He was going through some things, and we spent the meal talking through it all. I have no idea why I would have taken this photograph, given the circumstances, but it means the world to me. He was not just the happy-go-lucky, funny, drinking, laughing, list-writing friend who shows in so many of the other pictures that I have. He was also quiet, deeply introspective, often sad and profoundly down on himself, and never for one moment saw himself the way that I did. It's part of what made him such an amazing friend to me, the complexity of his dark and light sides, and very little shallow (which is why most people found him hard to get to know).  I miss him every single day.

Day 20: "Metal"  Well, not exactly. This is, unfortunately, one of those inside references that can't adequately be explained. If you get it, you get it, and if you don't, there's no point in trying to make this one make sense.

Day 21: "Furry"  Sitting on the living room floor with a cat on my back, age 12
The student pokes her head into my cubicle.
She's climbed the screw-thread stairs that spiral up
to the crow's nest where I work
to say goodbye.
She hands back books I lent.
I wave her to move papers from the spot

she always took, worrying a sentence or a line;
or come with protruded tongue to show
a silver stud;
or bamboozled by some guy who can't appreciate
the dragon tattooed on her breast, the filigree
around her thigh. This term she's done with school.

Four years she's siphoned every phrase,
or anecdote, or quote that's mine to dole.
She knows what I know,
or used to know, for in me sonnets fade.
Homer erodes
like sandstone worn by age.

Each year I grow emptier, more obsolete,
can barely grope
to words that once hung iridescent in my skull.
When, thirty years back, I asked my beloved tutor
how I'd ever pay him back, he said, It's not
that linear. Only carry on this talk

with someone else. 
All his thoughts on Western Civ
would melt like ice without this kid--
hair dyed torch red, painted flames on her lug-sole boots.
She safety-pinned a plastic charm
of Our Lady's sacred heart to her sleeve.

Last night, to plot her destiny
she hurled at the world map a lopsided dart
and hit a South Seas flyspeck. Call collect,
I say, if you get stuck. Read
thus-and-such translation of Rilke only.
And though I sound like Polonius to myself,

she scribbles down my platitudes.
Without her like,
I'd live in the dull smear
of my own profession, each kid
a repeat, indistinct from the vanishing instants
that mark us made.

The hand that holds this pen's assembled by some force
newly manifest
in her face. She brought amazement for a spell,
then tore loose into the labyrinth I've meandered in
addled as a child, feeling along the string my teacher tied.
My eyes stare out from ever deeper sockets, edged in mesh.

I watch her cross the snow-swirled quad
backpacked in hunter plaid, bent like an old scholar,
moving with care across the slippery earth.
Snow is falling
over the quad, like rare pages
shredded and dispersed by wind,

that wild white filling every place we've stepped.

[Mary Karr, 'Winter Term's End', from Sinners Welcome]

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