Poem for L.
October of '89: college: the first time I saw you.
At once my cold gray world brightened and warmed,
And my heart, that sluggish lump, became exultant.
I would praise your voice, but I need help from the poets:
A hand laid softly on the soul. My love's dark throat slow-fluting like a reed.
The ice about my heart melts as the snow on mountain heights.
When Alvin Ailey's company danced on late-night TV,
You stood in the student lounge and watched.
I sat and watched you watch the dancers.
"Are you hungry?" you asked me some other time, at some
Unlikely hour. "I have spaghetti," you explained.
We sat in your room and ate spaghetti together.
One time, we were chatting in the doorway of my dorm-room.
I looked down and I noticed you were barefoot.
My knees went weak. I almost genuflected!
You wore t-shirts with conscious messages:
IMPORTED FROM AFRICA read one across the front,
And on the back: I DIDN’T ASK TO COME.
I would wake up each morning at 5.30
And go to the common room and pretend to study,
Knowing that you'd be shortly passing through.
I'd see you just after six
In a white robe and furry brown slippers,
Your hair a glorious anarchy of blackness.
Sometimes I'd ask you a slappably dumb question.
You knew that I didn't know
As much as I thought I did.
I remember the name of the play you acted in:
Unfinished Women Cry in No Man's Land
While a Bird Dies in a Gilded Cage.
One afternoon, you were sitting at a desk, seething,
Lately subjected to racist disdain.
I wanted to comfort. But all I could do was listen.
I ventured one question:
"How often does something like that happen to you?" --
"About twice a week." -- My eyes widened.
We didn't seem to have a lot in common!
You admired June Jordan, Spike Lee, Public Enemy;
I was mad for Dylan Thomas, Spencer Tracy, The Smiths,
And you. Nearly thirty Decembers
Have passed since last I saw you. But how many times
Have I seen you, even spoken to you, in dreams?
Would you approve of who I’ve become:
More even-keeled, church-going now,
Still bookish and wordy?
Or would you deplore my failure to forget you,
My hopeless urge to go back,
To steal just one more glimpse, to speak just one more word?
Poetry by Thomas DeFreitas
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Written on 2017-10-30 at 02:50
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