In Flemington

My mom and I are visiting Flemington, NJ tomorrow.  This may seem like a very not-big deal to most of you, but to me, Flemington is a place of magic.

Flemington is the town my mother lived in when I went to live with her when I got sober.  Like, within the first 12 hours that I got sober.  I’ve written a lot about my alcoholism, both my active drinking time and my recovery period, but I’ve never written at length about the very end of the drinking and the very beginning of the sobriety—and I’m still not going to, although that post is percolating, probably for sometime closer to my ten year sobriety anniversary, in April.  But it should be noted that my life as I currently think of it began in Flemington, NJ, about 9 and a half years ago.

I only lived there for six months (with my mom and her husband, John), but it seemed like much longer, and it still seems like yesterday.  I find it nearly impossible to believe it was almost ten years ago.  I still seperate events into things that happened “post-sobriety” and things that happened “pre-sobriety”, even things that didn’t happen to me.  If a movie was made in 2004 (post-sobriety) I consider it relatively new, despite it being 8 years old.  My life in Flemington serves as my own personal Big Bang.

Not only did I experience my early recovery “pink cloud” in Flemington, but it was an idyllic time for me in many ways: I was a grown-up with a job, yet had no bills.  Literally, no bills.  It was my first time in my life living outside of Central PA and I was discovering my love for “exploring”.  I was developing my love for movies, music, and books at record pace.  It was a wholly unique time of rebirth in my life.  And, I was writing poetry like I would never write it again.

It’s possible that I’ve gotten technically better at writing poetry since my Flemington period, but never again will I be able to write such genuine, immediate, voluminous verse as I was then.  I was bold, experimental, and searching for my unique poetic voice (by the time I moved in with my friend Duane in Carlisle, PA, six months later, I had found my poetic voice completely, and would go on to write a second batch of great material from our shared apartment on North Street).

The whole point of this post is for me to have an excuse to post my Flemington poems (or “early recovery poems”) for the first time in a long time.  I suppose it’s possible I am more fond of them than they deserve, because of my warm association with their creation, but I really do think they’re great.  I don’t have the time or space to post them all, or even all my favorites (I started writing this later at night than I had planned), but I’ll get a few here.  First is the poem I have repeatedly said is my best ever, and I stand by that.  The poem, “In Flemington”, doesn’t seem outwardly amazing, but it drips with emotion, and very accurately captures my experience.  It is a unique narrative chronicle and ends by revelaing that the narrator (me) has actually been thinking about a nameless woman that he didn’t mention previously, and that the entire poem has actually been addressed to her.  An immediate re-reading of the poem should then change your comprehension of the narrator’s (my) emotions, and add yet another layer of emotional depth to the piece.  Here it is:

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.

OK, it’s me again.  Here’s another one of my all-time favorite, “You Sould Be Good”, a poem I write after my mother and I saw a woman collapse at a flea market.  I still read it and, when I get to the last few lines, I get chills.  Undoubtedly, I think, one of my most publishable poems.

You Should Be Good

I saw a woman stricken today—
with a heart attack, most likely—
it was at the flea market that occurs
every Sunday in the baseball field
beside my mother’s house.

She lay there quite still,
her insides arguing most likely,
and no one came running
except one woman wearing khaki shorts,
a daughter probably—
somebody’s daughter—
who knelt to tend to her.
(she was already dead?  perhaps)

The other market-goers stood,
seemingly stricken themselves,
stranded in place and looking on,
listening as the ambulance
from not-so-far-away
took up its familiar and chilling cry,
not just a wailing, but a caution:
You should be good.

Hey, it’s me again.  I’ve got to go to bed now, but I really have more of these to post, even though surely nobody is reading this.  So anyway, I’m going to return to this subject tomorrow, after my mom and I get back from our visit.  Goodnight, cruel world!

6 Responses to “In Flemington”

  1. somebody is reading , for sure. (:

  2. Adrienne McGuire Says:

    Didn’t mom live in Neshanic Station? I think she worked in Flemington.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      Yeah but Neshanic Station is pretty much a non-town. It’s smaller than Mantua. It’s not even Plainfield.

  3. Very relaxing for me to read, after our day together in Flemington.

  4. Having never experienced a “pink cloud” I sure knew felt exactly how it would feel to have one reading your first poem.

    I feel my jetlag isn’t allowing me the literary…words…fuck…I liked it a lot OK leave me alone!

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