Audio Poem: ‘In Flemington’

Now we get into ‘early recovery’ poems.  The first 6 months of my sobriety were spent living with my mother in New Jersey, and were probably the most prolific months of my poetry writing life, and I dare say some of the best, most original work of mine was done at that time, as well.  I wrote two full collections in those six months.  It will take me a few months of Sunday postings to get through my favorites out of those collections.  This poem comes from the very first sober collection, Open When I Get There.  It is called simply “In Flemington”, which is the town we lived in in Jersey, but it is also the title poem of the collection, as “open when I get there” appears in the body of the poem.  “In Flemington” remains my favorite poem that I’ve ever written, probably more for sentimental reasons than technical ones.  If I were to write it all over again, there are one or two lines I’d change, but at this point it means too much to me personally to change anything.  I don’t think I’ve ever captured my own moment as well as this.  Here is is. Click the gray arrow to play it:

In Flemington

On the corner at a small shop I buy a coffee
and take it outside with me.
In the air it steams to cool,
in communion with the breeze.
Strolling east, the cars and bicycles
are sparse today, even birds are few,
this close to downtown.  Passing the laundromat,
sweet, pungent softener assaults the nostrils
and the rumble of coin-op dryers is melancholy and promising.
Turning left onto Reaville Avenue a small boy
eight years old if a day
sits on the curb just sitting there
drying his hair in the sun like the sidewalk
and I almost say hi to him.
The coffee cools quickly in the chill afternoon,
I almost turn back to buy another,
but think better of the three dollars I have left.
I sidle into a quaint bookstore to gape at magazines,
the lives of others and kitchen equipment
glossy and flaxen, and the portly
latina by the register eyes me
and she is beautiful in that way
only latinas and llamas can be beautiful:
using solely the eyes.
Asking her if there is a restroom, she grudgingly gives me a key
knotted to a large wooden block
as if this were an interstate filling station,
and points me to the back corner,
but the door is open when I get there.
Safely locked inside, my pants stay buttoned
and I use only the mirror, studying my lines,
the old souvenir red blotches, reminding me
of lives and moments, other bookstores
or towns; some oversize pores poke peskily
into view begging for me to wash my face more often,
but not right now, not now, a time and place for everything.
Giving the key back to the girl, I emerge onto Main Street
and suck deep the stunningly new air,
amazed by the realization that you are somewhere far away
occupying real space
breathing just like me
and smiling right this instant,
your eyes gleaming like little coins.

14 Responses to “Audio Poem: ‘In Flemington’”

  1. Sometimes it seems more prudent to just say nothing while I sit here in awe and silence, digesting your words and your voice.

    Thank you.

  2. What lines would you change?

    • sethdellinger Says:

      I’m not saying. :) Well, I won’t say which ones I’d change content-wise, but I will say that technically, the line “begging for me to wash my face more often” is clunky and cumbersome. It’s got too many words. I’d love to prune it down. And I should mention that during the first few years of recover—say, 2003 to 2005—I was still a poet who capitalized all my first lines. Now, anytime I present a poem from that era I always change that, and lowercase my first lines unless a cap is dictated by proper punctuaion. So, quite technically, I HAVE changed the poem from its original incarnation.

  3. shannon Says:

    Always a joy to open my email for the first time and see your posts. This one in particular was fresh and sobering.

  4. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    I want to go to there. Can you imagine a Llama from Latinia (or is it Latvia? Latisia? Latin Town? Little Latin Looby Loo? Pleasanton?)! And the twist in this story is, that boy you passed grew up to be Barack Obama.

    I’m making light of your wonderful poem because there’s no words I can type to describe how much I enjoyed it as compared to the words you used to describe your stroll. So instead I’m using nonsense. Like that time we sold whipped cream on the side of the road in exchange for Cool Whip.

  5. cory w. Says:

    I love you.

  6. Franklin Says:

    I can’t help but notice this has a Mary tag. ?

  7. Franklin Says:

    Shall I take it that is the “you” at the end of the poem?

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