Adonis Maybe I didn’t really want to find you or I would have hugged closer to where it culminated forty-one years ago this past May in a crash on the way to Green Lakes your home of course it was since the water in those rare lakes is the same turquoise as your eyes like some god had poured the overflow of them into you I’ve been wanting to tell you how sorry I’ve been for that night I was behind the wheel when I couldn’t even navigate a sentence I remember it was our first evening out as ex-lovers but I knew I was in trouble the moment I saw you step out of your house and walk towards the Valiant the sun hung low enough to catch your hair and spin it gold and ignite those eyes in the hottest blue flames and the great span of your shoulders stretched beneath a white button-down shirt you burned like Adonis come to call and there was only one way I could answer I ordered beer after beer at the bar and I don’t know what happened next except my head hit the steering wheel so hard I didn’t open my eyes for three more days what the sight of you did to me I opened my email four decades later and there you were you said I suddenly hummed inside so you opened the internet and I spilled out you read the poems in my book lines about you I made the mistake of telling my mother who at 92 recalled your name as if it was back then with her accusing me of kissing you our joined images in the kitchen reflected on the polished wood door like it was something dirty she saw she never liked us together she sensed our heat how our hands always touched each other’s bodies one day she called me back into the house when my leg draped over yours while we sat on the front walk love filthy love desire and shame stained in a way only buckets of booze could scrub clean and this left you broken on the side of the road you said I don’t owe you amends it’s enough that no one died now I see us sitting on a tree trunk fallen by the shore our feet dangling in the cool green as we watch our ripples meet on the surface. -published in Literary Accents, Vol.1, Issue 4, 2021
When Art Delivers Forgiveness
The most I’ve ever wanted from my poetry is to create empathy. Whether it’s by composing an image a reader recognizes or by witnessing human interactions, I wish to convey the truth that elevates the human experience. The best possible outcome is to stir a connection with a reader, to allow them to reflect on their own lives in every context, to see something of themselves, or gain an appreciation for another.
With my first poetry collection, Firefly, I wanted to witness my own experience with alcoholism and addiction as a way to tell others who suffer that recovery is possible. But, underneath that, I tried to tell my story to create empathy in the larger world for alcoholics and addicts. I thought if I could capture some of the nuances of living with this shadow—the crippling self-doubt, the denial, the shame—perhaps I could open a space for those unafflicted to begin to understand this often misunderstood disease.
Never (“in a million years,” as we used to say) did I expect to hear from someone I had gravely injured during my drinking days. The poem I posted tells the story better than my prose can recount because, for me, the difficult-to-capture emotion shimmers between the lines with poetry. I don’t know if my first poetry collection accomplished my grand dual goals of creating hope and empathy for fellow alcoholics and addicts. If I only reached one, then baring my soul was worth it. But, I do know that publishing Firefly gave me something I never thought possible: forgiveness.
I don’t think I was fully aware of the shadow I had internalized and carried around for over forty years until I heard from the person I had harmed. I still struggle with the damage I have done. In recovery, we hear, “we do not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” Intellectually, I know this concept concerns using our past experiences to help other people, but it can be challenging to embrace, especially when you have caused lasting bodily injury to someone else. The old part of me still says I don’t deserve forgiveness. I’ve been carrying this shadow for so long—I don’t know how to let it go. But, it doesn’t feel as heavy now that I’ve taken the shadow out into the light—art, specifically, poetry, allowed me to do that. I’m forever grateful to the generous soul who granted me forgiveness, so I can perhaps learn to forgive myself. Thank you. You know who you are.