October 1989

College in Amherst: 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. 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 once asked me, at some unlikely hour.
"I have spaghetti," you explained.
We sat in your room and ate spaghetti together.

One time, we were chatting in my dorm-room's doorway.
I looked down and I noticed you were barefoot.
My knees went weak. I almost genuflected!

You wore t-shirts with conscious slogans:
IMPORTED FROM AFRICA read one across the front,
And on the back: I DIDN'T ASK TO COME.

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.

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 tangle of blackness.

I'd ask you slappably dumb questions sometimes.
You knew that I didn't know as much as I thought I did.

One afternoon, you were sitting at a desk, seething,
Having lately been subjected to racist disdain.
I wanted to comfort. But all I could do was listen.

I ventured: "How often does something like that happen to you?"
"About twice a week." -- My eyes widened.

We had, oh, so much in common, you and I!
You admired June Jordan, Spike Lee, Public Enemy;
I was mad for Dylan Thomas, Spencer Tracy, The Smiths,

And you. It's been thirty Decembers and more
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 (nowhere to go but up),
Church-going now, still bookish and wordy?

Or would you deplore my failure to forget you,
My blameworthy urge to raid the unraidable past
To steal just one more glimpse, just one more word?

Poetry by Uncle Meridian The PoetBay support member heart!
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Written on 2023-06-19 at 07:21

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jim The PoetBay support member heart!
A wonderful, transportive, vivid story/poem, the final three stanzas a succinct gut check. I was with you all the way.


Not to mention stirring semi-dormant memories.

D G Moody The PoetBay support member heart!
Damn you Tom - this is so good, it brought me up short, as it evoked my own callow youth, and the unrequited yearnings. The actual skill in the poem is that it is deceptively conversational, but in so doing it takes the reader straight into the story.

Ultra Bravo! ...Dougie


Clear and Generous
by Uncle Meridian