Monday, March 24, 2008


There's no hope for a modern romance
We're distrustful of sentiment, our own and others'
And rightfully so, since it's so easily manufactured
Pandered and peddled, greeting cards, romantic comedies
The empty words of shopgirls who love you in that shirt
An eviscerated vocabulary beaten down through overuse
Can communicate only the trivial

And love is never trivial

Even once understood beyond all language
In the depths of the heart, the bottom of the gut
We still refuse to pay homage dearly enough
Because we dismiss it as a feeling
And feeling is not the same as knowing, we are told
By the parents and advisers who feel that they know
What is best for us

Think about your future, prudence over immersion
Into the warmth and excitement of something
That belies all logic and rules of syntax
Prepares not in the least for the workforce
Or the predeath twilight of retirement

Think of your future, keep your mind off the moment
When you might feel something beyond scant notions of time
A connection to the eternal through another's eyes and touch
An escape from your mundanity where the days are suffused
With the baited breath of expectation like the salt in the air
On some lonely beach astride an ocean
Or the dark musk of a bedroom heavy with love

Turn away from this and call yourself responsible
Or call yourself pathetic
The coward offspring of therapies and savings plans
At once secure in your emotional disfigurement
And again secure in your long life
To pass by joy when a timid soul offers it


I mostly sit by the window on quiet days
And look into my backyard at the grass and birds
Feeling like each time I relearn the simply joy
Of doing nothing with an afternoon spent alone

My thoughts are as innocuous and unbidden
As the movements of the birds in the grass
Ambling along, stopping briefly to investigate
Something curious that revealed itself to be left
Unmolested for harder days of concentration

Often my thoughts alight on you, whoever you are
Woman of the moment eternal in my questing
Whom I may or may not have seen the night before
When we made love sweetly for the first time in months
Perhaps I will see you again the evening after
This quiet afternoon spent before my window
Regardless I know that the most I can hope for
In my long life to follow intermittent with crises
Is the next quiet moment and the one to follow
Alone with myself content to wonder

Poem XLV

Grecian bird
I'd like to pluck
Your song from the air
To cup in my hand
And hold close to my ear

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


In your darkest moments
You are always alone
Enslaved to isolation

I love humanity abstractly
And beauty minutely

But moments of darkness
Leave me groping blind
For guidance and comfort
From those ghostly proxies
Of a warm and living hand

Saturday, March 15, 2008


You beautiful afflicted girl
Tortured in the remnants of spilt passion
Caught in a cup tasted once
Then handed over to be left
Placed forgotten on a sideboard

I see in your eyes the hope for all things
Eternal unchanged trustworthy and raw
To be enjoyed passive to the flux
Of life and occasional abuse

I am the mirror of your solvent anguish
The effigy of your dreams fashioned and burnt
In the shadow of an idol remote and senseless
Erected and worshiped in sterility
While breathing behind you stands your loss

Friday, March 14, 2008


You were my last chance for refuge
From the consummation of my labor
In the fire and anguish of inspiration
Cast like an ashen cross on my brow
The mark of those cursed by obligation
To a fate of envy, pursuit, and solitude
An emptiness that seeks fulfillment
In the incorporation of a human element
Once nurtured but effaced too often
Until the song of the hunt became the psalm
To honor the vestige of a final defeat

Poem XLI

We hide our pounded faces from each other
We've learned not to display our emblems of war
A day will come when we feel safe in our ugliness
And such an occasion will merit another scar
We fall in love with icons, passion and poesy
We run from revealed nature and honest effusion
We seek comfort in costumed cosmopolitanism
While behind the red flags of manufactured grace
Dwells a wart-covered bubble aching to burst

Is there ever acquittal, or a dawn unsplintered
Into the shrapnel of guilt, alone or accompanied
By the pathetic wreck of someone else's life
All victims of psychology, subverted by passion
That easy clumsy answer given again and again
To the question of how we can stand our loneliness

We're the monstrous composites of a cadaverous past
Sewn together, misshapen, contorted by the hatred
That's the curse of a too keen self awareness

We run, chase after happiness and safety
But safe harbor eludes those who pursue themselves

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Poem XL

i fall into a sibilant breeze
neither standing nor lying down
neither active nor prone
to false epiphanies
or timely endeavors
but senseless
in the wake of eternity


Fallen columns
Yellow and purple flowers
Marble fragments strewn among them
The sanctuary is all
Left standing
Even its walls have bowed before it
An olive tree
Older than all
Or perhaps as young
Planted by the hands of a priestess
You want to take a stone or flower
But the signs forbid it
As do the eyes of the attendant


When I walk behind you down the street
And human traffic flows around us
I feel moored to you
As an ancient sailor to the North Star.
You are the fixed point of all my hopes
You walk ahead of me and I wonder
If I follow perfection, or find perfect
What draws me onward.
I live for these moments
When my private admiration
Alights on your beauty undisturbed.
I know then I've fallen victium
To the same mute awe
That brought men to their knees
Before the sun, the stars,
And the rivers that flowed before them.


salacious vert
foul lust
lizard false idol
of tawny skin and
salty black hair
that lives and dies
inside a moment
trapped beating
breathing release
onset no peace
or joy state of mind
just baited
for the limpid wet
of spent fury
in the morning
bourne that we
hate ourselves


One foot, one step, placed onto the heart
Leaves a wound not unlike
The hole in a sole
Worn through much wandering
Much seeking beneath the rustle
Of stirred branches or the turning night.
What have I found
That I found not seeking awareness
But the obliteration of heart and soul
Through travels, travails,
Wanderlust and loneliness
Those afflictions of my cursed mind


a late ray of sun
turns gold the afternoon and your hair when
turning your unguarded expression is that
of a child
expansive and clear
the sky from a peak
unweighed by thought or decor
eyes wide open mouth slightly so
you dangle your feet in the water
dappled by sunlight ripples
outward from your motion

i love this revealed innocence
a second composed of light and chance
chance enchantment of the suns repast


my sorrow evaporates
when I open the window
to my street of dreams
and see you standing there


Incipient lovers
Who spend the days
Pawns of night's remembrance
Who whisper to each other
In the dark of joy
Because when faced with
One another and sunlight
To give vent to
The swelling that trembles
Behind the throat
Would require the lungs
Of a god
Or the song
Of a bird

But in darkness prostrate
At the altar of affection
Newly baptized in passion
It is possible to whisper
Of sacred things


What is it in your eyes?
The warning of consciousness
The silent shout of an indignant soul
The tender buds of an invincible spring
The grandeur of a calm sea and
A fragile moment of intimacy.
I see myself there in repose
Cradled in your garden
And I fade into you
As a drowning man
Fades into the water
Expelling his last breath
So he can sink faster.


these words composed in solitude
prove that we exist and more
they are the current that flows
in the sky of our love
the wind that clears the clouds
the breeze that carries your scent
And the whisper of my voice
to your ear.

Poem XXX

My love resides
Above living streets
In a fourth floor room
With a stellar view
Where I find refuge
At each day’s end.
From here the landscape
Looks how I feel
And with thoughts of you
It is always dawn
The moment before
The fog burns away
When the world is cast
All in soft-focus
And all that lives
Wakes with a sigh
The vast starry sky
Pales to nothing
Like the enigma
Of all lost souls
Solved in the movement
Of two in tandem
The setting moon
The rising sun.


This earth from which you grew
Is precious to me
For that reason
Thought its taxed soil
Could not bear another like you.

My words may blossom
In vain imitation
Of your splendour,
But like dusted silk flowers
Tossed in the wind,
They can never convey your fragrance.

Yet I persist
And place this false bouquet
At your feet, my rose
A synthetic tribute
To the flower that you are.


We are alone in every shared
We shed the crowd, as our clothes
Two swimmers we immerse in
One another
With the world a separate
That appears rarefied
A flicker
That plays on our features


When the dawn first
Spreads over your face
Spring bursts
Into my heart
Like your eyes
The color of hope


You face speaks beauty
As a flower sings
In a sudden breeze.
Between your lips
Pass rhythmic breaths
The sounds of which
Surpass all eloquence.

(What passes between us
Renders speech useless)

Your eyes are pools of abundance
Pupils uncharted depths
Surrounded by a verdant fringe
First an oasis then a pit
Into which I fall and settle
Silent, content with falling.

Poem XXV

Frozen roads arranged themselves
Side by side in numbered rows
Yellow pervaded Leave Us Stranded
A dusty town between cigarette orchards
In our search a pipe
Dreaming down which we fell
Into venomous gardens beneath
The leaves of tulapeas
Where huddled for shelter
Children nibble Oxycontin
And stare with ash-filled eyes


exiled memories
buried resident
everyday objects
wait like mines.

vigilance operates
averted glances
words unheard
places avoided.

most susceptible
uneven sidewalks
early morning
late evening
when spared
world's gaze.


If music fades
We fade
Into the silence
Civilized hearts
Enshrine the arts
Four chambers roomed
Together the first
The arts of the earth
The hearth home and loom
And within the second
The works of the blessed
Sophistry psalm and Truth
Right next to the third
The arts that are heard
From epics to folksy tunes
And finally the fourth
The best and the worst
The poets and this writer too


We traffic in symbolism
Load meaning like freight
To ship down ruled lines
Or air over tracks.
A string of words can
Outperform an action
That seeks to convey
The mood of a people
For no act can be repeated
As a song is sung.
We trade in significance
Play up sentiments
To remind those who listen
Of the sound of their voice.

Poem XXI

The lines on your face
Contours that endow
Your experience of beauty
Grooves depths
Suggest your wisdom
Their eloquence
Contains all words, and
More than your notions
Of pain, grief, happiness.
The lines on your face
Form the letters of your name
Display the response that
Illuminates your present
And the contrast that
Is the shade of your past.
You are blind to the words
Written on your face
No matter how clear
They are to others.
Your mirror reflects
The memory of your hope.

Poem XX

A mirror renders us vulnerable
Open to dissection and discernment
That impenetrable morass of smiles
Inhabited solely by reflections
Face to face with the silent surface
We hold no conversation with our self
The hardness of our features speaks
Words of cold marble and dust
Our only infinity a hall of mirrors
Where our weaknesses are multiplied
To extenuate our vanities

Poem XIX

There's truth in these old words yet
Nothing new, but several times forgotten
Epiphanies realized and regained
That shine for those who seek them
And are tired and common for the
Tired and common at heart.
Words hold nothing for those
Who find truth in disbelief
And truth remains the sole domain
Of the believer.


St. Francis protects dogs and bird
From calamities like death or starvation
An old woman who prays for her son
Invites succor on his behalf
She speaks in a language as simple
As the cooing of a dove
For the saints have no patience
For bombast and theology
A monastery wall is the most blessed
And can crumble for centuries
Protected and peaceful
It never speaks
Its thoughts are the color of ivy


I embrace the dawn in summertime
When the rose rises in my chest
And no light has yet kissed
The slumbering ground.
The air stirs waking slowly
A warm-blooded beast whose presence is felt
In swarming shadows that make their last stand
In corners and neglected alleyways.
I walk along
And the air comes alive at my passing
Stones voice their lament
Birds that have never flown
Fly before me.

Poem XVI

early riser
riddled with intent
deigning to yearn
for absolution
morning alights
to twitters on branches
a soft melodic call
of joy and renewal
everything born
in the fresh light of day
fresh bout of creation
fresh breeze stirring
a world in soft focus
a drop of dew trembling
to fall

Poem XV

Earthbound and
Inching to daylight
Unaccustomed innocents
Complain of youth
Jaundiced walls
Close always tighter and
Rendered tendrils
Ever creep inward
Patterns seen
Insidious designs
A state of things
Beyond comprehension

Poem XIV

Transparent days and oblique nights
The empty street a child’s theater
Time and space without sway despite
The tragic end that youth must meet.
The friction and heat of the small town feel
Convention in separation displayed
Like the potted plants on windowsills
Of three-bedroom homes with privacy fences
Often watered but never seen by
Narrow minds with tunnel vision.
In the soft glow of their living rooms
Where life is a flickering pantomime
A merciless, glaring, all-seeing eye
Invades this domestic privacy
As ever-present and consciously ignored
As an infirm relative in the back bedroom
Who emits shame at day and guilt at night
A part of life, immobile and fixed
A heat lamp for sick plants
Glued into its socket.


Do you want a taste of the whip?
A lioness lies down to watch the fight
While the red light of dawn bathes all
Three of us in blood
We approach a catastrophe
Animal slave
Are you not a woman of flesh and blood,
Have you not a heart like mine?

Little Judie wakes with her face shoved
Pushed into cushions
There’s a hand on the back of her neck
And her shorts are around her knees
Something prods between her legs
She tries to breath scream cannot
Her eyes widen she struggles
A sparrow ground beneath the heel
She snaps and breaks in two pieces
Then darkness.

A lioness laid down to watch the fight
While the red light of dawn
Bathed all three in blood
No longer a woman of flesh and blood
No heart like yours or mine
Would you like a taste of the whip
She asks
Can I interest you in broken time?
When syncopated lines are cast
In tones of joy and pain
And the dead lash each other
In a grotesque love charade
Rest your foot upon your slave
Lady of Fables
In matters of love there is no equality
Woman is man’s enemy
To hold and tender quietly.

I feel like a condemned man
When I make love to you
Locked inside strange shudders
The quiver of bronze that
Resonates with howls
I burn alive inside you
Judith Dionysius.

Poem XII

Our love is new with each new day
Every dawn a genesis
The soft pink of modest morning
Always virgin in its embrace
The silence of a waking world
Is the epochal quiet of prehistory
Before words strangled us.

The sunlight tempts
Me out of darkness
By illuminating your body.
The color of the sky and clouds
Are nothing but complements
To your eyes and hair
And I awake
Born again beside you.

Poem XI

We acknowledge the need
For an all-seeing eye
Perceptive and raw to provide
Insight into our weakness.
An outlandish rapacity
For facts and dreams
To calm soothe provide a
Panacea for our sickness.
But this medicine breeds dependence
And creates its own demand.
Before the end of it all
Before the credits roll
We needs must preen
Before our sacred cows
That flicker past in Technicolor
With the face and form of
Perfect health celebrity
Our American dream
An intravenous drip
The apple of the all-seeing eye.

Poem X

I looked at her
Like a child who has just caught
His first glimpse of the ocean
All at once
I became aware
Of my place in the world
Of the infinity of space
Near me
She appeared boundless
As eternal as night and day
I felt I could lose myself
In her depths
She smiled
Dawn broke over the waters
I became blind
And thought what fools
Seek God in the desert

Poem IX

You try to die and grow up
Be the person you want to be
Sacrifice time and space
For complexity
Retreat into the self to see
The world for what it's worth
Bop prosody
Romantic realists
Sons of Nietzsche
Old gods done gone


Doors set in the earth
In a grove of trees
And the possibility
Of a hidden mystery
Sheltered in-
Definite boundaries
Of Nature the
Definite limit
Of human endeavor

Poem VII

Distant, mountainous sounds
The hum of the surf
Or hemispheric insects
Dense in the plain of night
The world turns in silence
While nature is cacophonous
Like a man who fidgets
When he gets nervous

Poem VI

A relief from
The outsized demands of ego
Through homage paid
To things larger than the self.
An old woman
On a bench at dawn
Speaks of eternity
More eloquently than
Any text or stone edifice.
A young couple
Who blush at a touch
Showcase more beauty
Than any static image.
One should not feel
When faced with monuments
Singular things alone
Like all single things.
True largeness is found in
The transitory connections
Of the everyday.
True humility is
To kneel
Before the commonplace.

Poem V

Raindrops fall in silence
And speak when they
Hit the ground
We fall with whispers
And are silent
In the aftermath
Bolts of lightning jostle space
To die before they
Make a sound
We die every time we come together
And announce our death
With our cries


I once asked a travelling bum what the most beautiful place in the country was. He had been hitchhiking around for over ten years, so I felt I could trust his authority. He exhaled heavily and stared off into space, shaking his head, as if blown away by the enormity of the question. Finally, he said, “Humboldt County, in northern California.”
As he explained it, Humboldt county was situated right on the coast, riddled with redwoods and small towns, with temperatures never above 70, rarely below 40, and the best damn pot in the world. In fact, it is the county’s number one export – for strictly medicinal purposes. Eureka has the second largest bay in California; young flesh gravitates around the college town of Arcata. Hipness is ensured through a sprinkling of exiles from San Francisco. When he mentioned this last fact, something caught in my memory. Humboldt sounded familiar, though I was certain I had never been, and it took me a few days to remember that Vivian lived there.
I had not seen her since the move. Her last residence had been San Francisco, where I visited her once. The second visit fell through due to a stupid argument on the phone a few days before my arrival. We always had a tempestuous relationship, though, strangely, one with its own stability. No matter how angry we got or how much time passed, one of us would always eventually reach out to the other. It was the acknowledgement of the peculiar comfort you feel around those who have broken your heart. There’s not much more pain they could cause, you’ve already experienced the best and worst that they have to offer, and in the absence of hope or expectation you can actually be honest. Or maybe it was comfortable simply because we had known each other for so long, and the periodic reaching out was simply an act of boredom.
The peregrinations of our relationship notwithstanding, one thing I never expected was for Vivian to remarry and move to a small town in the middle of nowhere. But she was always full of surprises.
Early in the morning, when the fog rolls in from the Pacific to shroud her house in mystery, Vivian likes to imagine that she is dead. A lunatic once told her that everyone was already dead, and that we are all in heaven. She believed him those mornings when the sea invaded her home and turned the world outside gray. She stood at the kitchen counter and filled a small bag with loose ground tea, which she then dropped into a waiting mug filled with hot water. She carried the mug over to the kitchen table and sat, turning her gaze out through the window. Beyond her front yard, everything became indistinct, uncertain. She heard a car drive by but saw nothing of its form.
Vivian had always been an early riser. She enjoyed the solitude of morning, when the only sounds in the house were her own soft footsteps. Her husband, Dan, would not wake until later, until after the fog had burned off. They had been married for three years, and while there was no longer much passion in their relationship, they had gotten used to each other. Vivian was aging well. Her weight no longer fluctuated with the gluttonies of early adulthood, and she would remain petite and fragile-looking until the day she died. Her pale skin and dyed-black hair made her look somewhat younger than her thirty years. Her eyes were her most expressive feature, green shot through with gray, the color of a lake on the cusp of dawn. Covering her arms and shoulders were colorless tattoos depicting illustrations from children’s books. She had had them for so long she no longer noticed them; it was always a slight shock when a stranger made a comment.
She took a sip of her tea. The minutes ticked slowly by. She would not move from her seat until Dan stumbled into the kitchen an hour later, yawning and stretching.
Vivian was born and raised in Los Angeles. When she was twenty-three she moved to Austin to marry a man named Brian. They had known each other as teenagers and remained in touch through college via email and the occasional hook-up when Brian came home to visit his folks. They shared a passion for mod culture and fashion, scooters, and classic cinema. When Brian one day out of the blue suggested that Vivian marry him and join him in his adopted home, she agreed on a whim. Looking back on it later, she would admit to not knowing why she did what she did. She was never particularly attracted to Brian, though he was a handsome man, and their connection hardly extended beyond the superficial. She had gotten bored in Los Angeles, she supposed, and wanted a change of scenery. She figured he would support her in the transition, their marriage would be open, and that if Brian ever started to cramp her style, she would simply divorce him, which she did, just over a year after exchanging vows. Her relationship with me caused the split.
I met Vivian online, through a personals website. We posted ads for the same reason – both recent transplants to Austin, we figured it was an easy way to meet people. I saw her ad, made a witty comment in reference to something in it, and after exchanging a few messages we arranged to meet for coffee. I was stunned the first time I saw her. She was beautiful; she wore a t-shirt that barely covered her rib-cage, and a long black skirt that accentuated her full hips and beautiful ass. As she crossed the courtyard toward my table, the head of every man she passed turned in her wake. We talked for hours that first night; she never mentioned she was married. When her husband called her cell, she played it off like he was a roommate. She later admitted to being charmed by my naiveity. It blew her mind that the population of my hometown was less than 2500. I had never heard of any of the bands she mentioned. The fact that she was from LA impressed my hickish sensibilities; I had never been farther than New Orleans, and she seemed so experienced, already wise and world-weary. I was eighteen.
She gave me a ride home and we arranged to meet the next night for dinner. I spent the entire next day thinking about her, going over in my head what she said, remembering the way she looked at me, how her gaze left me chilled, tingly, and lightheaded. I was convinced that I had met my future wife, that it was not simply the internet that had brought us together, but fate. Although our relationship later evolved, I realize in hindsight that while I was totally enamoured of her from the get-go, I was at first for her simply an amusing distraction. Just as I had never met someone so culturally astute, well-spoken and charming, she had never met someone as hopelessly innocent and awkward. She was slumming it by pursuing me, a big city girl taking a trip to the country and marvelling at the cows.
We met the next evening at a mexican food restaurant. Soon after we took our seats she mentioned offhandedly that she she had a husband. I was perplexed and disappointed. She laughed at my stuttered query for clarity, and pointed out that she had worn her wedding band the night before. I was not yet experienced enough to notice such things. What confused me was that, even though she made clear she was in a relationship, her tone remained flirtatious. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Her eyes betrayed interest; my animal instincts picked up on this, and my heart raced when she spoke; I flinched when she touched me, which made her giggle. By the time we finished dinner it was dark outside, and I assumed she would go home. Instead, she suggested we go somewhere quiet and talk. I had recently discovered a secluded spot that afforded a gorgerous view of the downtown skyline, and suggested we go there.
The summer night settles softly over Austin, the cool hand on the forehead of scorching days. Castle Hill had once been the site of a boy’s military academy. The imposing structure remained, medieval in its façade, yet was abandoned and served no purpose other than as a meeting place for people in need of privacy. It sat on a bluff in the west end of the city, secluded from the surrounding neighborhood by the vastness of its lot. A couple could squeeze through a gap in the chain link fence surrounding it and find a comfortable spot with a spectacular view of downtown. A young man and woman sat together upon the ground, thighs touching, looking away from one another. The man sat stiffly, awkward in his youth and the romantic nature of the surroudings. The girl was more comfortable, and leaned back on her hands to stare up into the sky. Before them a group of high-rises rose into the light-deadened sky like a council of mute, concrete Jehovahs, their eyes a thousand blind windows. The man began to fidget, as if something within him was fighting for release. He adbruptly sat up straight and began to talk, as if addressing the buildings, the streets below, and the sky above.
“Do you ever look at the stars? I mean…. really look at them? They’re beautiful in their gentle twinklings, those constant reminders of our insignificance. We die, they remain, mute witness to the meaningless struggle that is life. No matter how brilliant, how gifted, how powerful, the end result is the same for everyone. Just as it always has been and always will be. While the poets and the generals are rotting in the ground, their deeds forgotten by a new crop of walking corpses, the stars shine on . . . so softly.”
The girl looked at him throughout his address, her face relaxed, expression one of quiet care and contentment. When he was done, she waited a moment, his words drifting in the air to settle on the scene, then spoke quietly:
“But we can’t even see the stars. The lights are too bright.”
The man chuckled and looked away. “Yeah. I guess you’re right.”
She gave space for the silence of the moment to blossom, then reached over and took his hand. He started, then relaxed into her grasp.
“What you said was very beautiful, though,” she said.
“Thanks. Sometimes I just talk.”
“I liked it.”
The girl reached over with her other hand and began to caress the one she held. The man turned to look at her. She lowered her eyes and smiled softly.
“Let’s take off all of our clothes,” she said.
“Nothing. Have you ever kissed a married woman?”
“No,” the man said, searching her, his heart racing.
She raised her eyes to his. He felt himself fall into her, saw himself lost in her, comfortable, warm, conquered by the power of those liquid pools that contained the absent beauty of a polluted urban sky. Without another word she leaned into him, pressed her chest to his and her lips to his. His hands moved to her waist.
Things progressed quickly after that. It never bothered me that I was breaking up a marriage. I was impatient for it to happen. I wanted her to belong to me, not him. And she seemed energized by the whole situation. We began to spend whole days together. She didn’t have a job, and I began to skip all my classes. To Brian, I was simply his wife’s new best friend. I was too young and unaccomplished to be seen as a threat. Things hit a pitch when she and I travelled to Los Angeles together for a weekend. The given reason was that I was going for a concert, and she wanted to come along for the opportunity to visit her family. He was perhaps a little suspicious, but he didn’t show it. While we were there, I took several pictures of Vivian, sprawled naked on a motel bed. She left the pictures on her camera, probably intentionally. A few days after we returned, Brian found them. He blew up, hit her, threatened to kill me. She left him and took refuge in my apartment.
“I don’t know what to do. You don’t know him, he’s crazy. If he finds us he will kill you.”
“He’s not going to kill me.”
“You don’t know him. You’re so fucking naïve.”
“I’m not naïve. And I’m not afraid of him. Chill out. We’re together. Nothing else matters.”
The girl sat in silence, staring at her feet.
“Look,” the man began, “don’t worry about anything. From here on out it’s just you and me. Us against the world. As long as we’re together, everything will work out . . . right?”
The girl hesitated a moment.
“Yeah. It’ll be okay.”
She stared at the floor, her eyes opaque.
A couple of days later she officially moved in. I gave her a key. She told Brian she wanted a divorce. We entered into a brief honeymoon period, grocery shopping, buying furniture, going to movies. I felt so proud to be seen with her. She was my prize, and I wore my pride on my sleeve. It wasn’t long, though, before she began to set parameters. We should have separate bedrooms, so we could preserve our independence. Coming out of a marriage, she wasn’t ready for a committed relationship. She wanted to go out, meet people, come to see Austin as her home independently of a man. I agreed. I was so enamoured with her I would have agreed to anything. One night, after going out with a boy we had met together at a concert, she didn’t come home. I couldn’t sleep. I sat up drinking. As I watched the sunrise spread on the carpet in our living room, I heard her come in.
(The clear light of a morning that illuminates our anguish can seem cruel, confrontational, a cosmic jibe that pokes fun at our insecurities. We are on display.)
The anguished light of daybreak crept over the carpet toward Henry’s naked, lonely feet. His toes were curled inward, hidden from the light of honest reflection. Upon the coffeetable there was a glass with more whiskey in it than the bottle beside it. He sat, shirtless, coated with a thin sheen of sweat. He had stopped thinking hours before; he sat mute, no longer expectant, but resigned, sickened by the reality of his situation. She hadn’t even bothered to call. She would have known he’d worry. But she didn’t care. He was a fool. She was heartless. He had given his fool heart to her, and she didn’t care enough to let him know she wasn’t dead. The door behind him opened and clicked shut again. He jerked around.
“Vivian? Jesus, fucking christ.”
She appeared rosy, ebullient. Her smile beamed forth to shame the incipient sunlight of the accusatory daybreak. She appeared enlivened by the early hour. He was a wreck. They were both drunk.
“Where the fuck have you been?” he slurred, rising from the couch to face her.
“Out with Beamer,” she began, her smile fading. “You knew that.”
“I assumed you would come home. You wouldn’t answer your phone.”
“Well, you shouldn’t make assumptions. And my phone died.”
They stood and stared silently at one another. Vivian’s smile had collapsed into a firm line. Henry looked at her, visibly wavering, wanting to trust her. His lip began to tremble.
“Oh jesus,” she said. “You fucking child.”
The tears began to flow from his eyes as he stood facing her, clenching and unclenching his fists. She shook her head slowly back and forth, as if unable to stomach her swelling disgust.
“You fucking whore,” he croaked.
She stood and let her eyes travel up and down his quivering form. They settled on the bottle behind him.
“How much have you had to drink?”
“What were you doing all night?”
The firm line of her lips coalesced into a cruel half grin. Her eyes remained fixed on the bottle.
“What do you think?”
“I don’t know what to think about you anymore.”
Vivian looked at Henry, her grin deeping. A malevolent light had crept into her eyes.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“It means that, if you loved me, you wouldn’t act like this. I . . . “ Henry wiped his eyes and swallowed hard, unsteady on his feet, “was up all night thinking about you, and . . . “
Vivian cut him off with a short, sharp laugh, “You make me sick. You act like you own me, like you took me in and I owe you something. Get a life, Henry. You want to know what I did all night?”
Henry stood pale and silent. She continued:
“Did you know that Beamer was a virgin when we met him at that show? So good looking, and all that money, and he’s deathly afraid of girls. Funny, huh?
Henry’s eyes travelled to the floor. His shoulders slumped in preparation for the blow. Vivian’s voice came low and sharp, a probed instrument pressed insistently into a sensitive area.
“Well, he’s not anymore.”
Her words fell heavy into the light and silence of the Sunday morning living room. Henry had no words, no thoughts to express the dead weight her admission had cast upon him. He could not look at her. She stared at him, gloating, savoring her victory over his weakness, his neediness. Finally, after a couple of minutes, Henry managed to croak dryly:
“Get out.”
Without a word, still smiling, Vivian turned and left the apartment.


After Vivian left our apartment that day, I didn’t speak to her for almost two years. We arranged for her to pick up her stuff while I was at work. Her ex-husband helped her pack, and even drove her to Beamer’s, where she planned to live. Learning this, I felt for the first time sorry for what we had done to the man. I resumed my courses at the university and tried to put behind me what had happened. I promised myself I would never again trust so easily, nor would I ignore such obvious indicators of character, such as a willingness to cheat on a husband. Of course I did neither of these things; the relationships I had after Vivian all more or less followed the same course, though without the dramatic trappings. I got used to this after awhile, and relegated myself to what I considered a fate of explosive romantic beginnings and precipitous, and emotionally fraught declines. The rapid succession of relationships that followed, while not healthy or emotionally satisfying, at least served to obscure the memory of Vivian. I finally even managed to convince myself that I had totally moved on, until one day I received a letter on a child’s stationary:

I’ve been thinking about you. If you’re interested:
293 – 5689.

Naturally, as soon as I put down the letter I picked up the phone.

An inch of ice coated the streets of Austin, the product of a freak storm in early February. Classes and work were cancelled around the city, and the day had the form of one stolen from history, outside of time and unbeholden to its laws. Henry and Vivian lay in the bedroom of her small apartment, cast in dim light, survivors from the shipwreck of a failed relationship. He held her in his arms. They had already shared a bottle of wine and were contemplating opening a second. The only sound was of the wind outside.
“Should I get the other bottle,” Henry asked softly.
“Wait a minute. Let’s just lay here.”
She felt empty and frail against his body. Earlier they had begun to have sex, but stopped when Vivian began to weep. They were both nude, pressed tightly together atop the covers. They could have been twins, adult simulacrum of infants in the womb.
“What happened, sweetie?”
It took her a few moments to decide where to begin. Lying in the half darkness, her mind travelled back over the last few months, the pain and disappointment, the regret and isolation, everything building towards this moment, this tentative reconciliation in the dark on a frozen day. She began to speak in a whisper, telling him about the early months of her relationship with Beamer. They had acted like children, spending money frivously, buying clothes, food, alcohol, riding around town at 3am on scooters, drunk and screaming. His life was a boyhood fantasy: a do-nothing heir who enjoyed a monthly allowance, a huge downtown condominium, and a complete lack of ambition or sense of responsibility. When Vivian had mentioned getting a job, he stared at her as with a mixed expression of horror and disbelief. His solution to a quiet, boring Sunday afternoon? Round-trip tickets to Paris, first-class, leaving in the hour.
The privilege had seduced her, even though its frivolity irked her sensibilities. As time passed she realized she did not have a lover on her hands, but a dependent, a little boy for whom she provided stability, comfort, and the occasional sexual gratification. Her intellectual pursuits were stymied by his fascination with pop culture and all things kitsch. After all, who has the time to parse Nietzsche when there is an 80s throwback night at a downtown club?
Beamer’s mental health problems began to weigh on her after about a year or so. He was diagnosed manic-depressive, and his depressive bouts were often coupled with delusional thoughts and hallucinations. One time, while they were baking cookies and watching ChiPs, Beamer became suddenly hysterical because of all the dead people he saw crowding into the apartment. She put up with these things out of a feeling of obligation, to both him and herself. To leave Beamer would have been to admit defeat, and it wasn’t until she became pregnant and his parents offered her ten thousand dollars to have an abortion that she finally made the move. Beamer was to be left totally in the dark. She packed her things and left early one morning, while he was still asleep. She moved into an apartment arranged for her by his parents. A driver showed up early the next day to take her to the clinic, where, after the procedure, she found out that her terminated pregnancy consisted of twins. This had all happened one week before she sent the letter to Henry. She was planning on using the ten thousand to leave the country, and wanted to see him one last time.
They lay in bed together, Henry listening in silence. He said nothing when she finished, simply holding her, letting her cry. He forgave her everything, the emotional anguish, the uncertainty, the betrayal; with each shudder of her weeping body he knew that he would love her for the rest of his life, even if he never saw her again. As the minutes passed, her tears subsided slowly, until at last, breathing normally, she turned to face him.
“I don’t deserve you,” she whispered.
He kissed her on the forehead. “You’re owed a lot more than me.”


A few days after their reunion, Vivian flew to South Africa. I dropped her off at the airport with the vague promise to join her there at some point. I never did. We exchanged the occasional email, she sent me a care package, and I wrote her one epic letter that she never received. She dove in a cage with great white sharks, got a job in a coffeeshop, and, in a fit of whimsy, gave her wedding band to a boy she met in a bar and never saw again. When she contracted pneoumonia and was faced with a health care system in which she had no insurance, her grandmother sent her a plane ticket back to California. I was still in Texas, and after she had settled again in Los Angeles, I flew out to see her. Our reunion was fun and inscouciant. She had met a man, Dan, who she married out of exhaustion and the need for emotional sustenance. She cheated on him easily with me, but by the time I left we both knew that our relationship had reached a coda. There was nothing left to do or say. Life and circumstance had dictated that we could not be together, and we accepted to this. As the years passed our communication persisted in fits and starts, sometimes steady, sometimes nonexistent. We came to occupy for one another the place of old friend and reserve confidant, a person to turn to in the wee hours when the world seemed to turn without us. I wonder sometimes how it will all end for Vivian, whether she’s truly settled down or if, one day, I can count on receiving another letter, another supplication, another day holding her in refuge from a frozen world.

Vivian finished her tea and placed the empty cup before her. She continued to stare in silence out the kitchen window, into the lightening fog. Her thoughts were ephemeral, diaphonous, tendrils of smoke that drifted and dissipated. She thought of her graduate course that afternoon. She thought of the film she and Dan had watched the night before. She thought of taking a vacation. As the sun began to tentatively break into her musings, she heard movement in the bedroom. She blinked, distracted. For a moment her thoughts had settled, and she imagined she was someone else, in a different place and time. Aching for more silence, she stood and walked out of the kitchen, into the yard, into the fog.