Flemington, Again

As stated in this post, my mother and I visited Flemington today.  It was an incredibly surreal experience.  It was truly lovely, but proved to be a very interesting exercise in the nature of memory and how I perceive the passage of time.  Until visiting there, I still had myself convinced that living there had been a “recent” occurence.  But being there again proved to me that it is most definitely verging on “a long time ago”.

Here are some pictures of the house we lived in (taken today):

We only lived on the top floor. The large window in the middle was the living room. My bed was up against the window that is seen at the far left of the picture.

And here is the best poem I wrote in which this house makes an appearance:

Like It Always Has

The dog runs away when I come near,
like it always has.
Off to the garage somewhere,
or to nose around in the garden,
maybe.
The skinny gray cat, however,
allows me to stroke him.
I like the cat, with his rough,
sandpaper coat and vibrating
contentment.
The cat meets my gaze with honesty,
commiserating over the heat,
the long days,
and the loud cars
which are ceaseless.

The house towers above us,
is taller than even our cars.
It is lit up like a ballroom,
and tonight it promises
to keep all wild things out,
like it always has.

OK, it’s me again.  Here is a picture I took today of the Boston Market I worked at while living in Flemington:

One of my lesser-liked poems from this period(the few people who have mentioned it to me usually call it weird or something like that) is a poem that was inspired by my job at this Boston Market, called “Growing”.  It is not actually about something that happened to me here, but employs a literary technique called Magical Realism in order to say what I’m thinking by presenting an impossible scenario.  The poem is about my fear of growing up and, ultimately, my fear of growing old—not unlikely topics to tackle at my first job after getting out of rehab and moving in with my mother.

Growing

Yesterday, at the ordinary restaurant where I work
a quite elderly woman bossed her way to my drive-through
window wanting food.  Upon passing me her hard-lived-for
money, my fingers briefly scraped the tips of hers,
and they were terrible, dead things,
scabrous extensions depleted of vigor or tautness
hardened at the end like pencil eraser nubs.
Whether these hands were worn heavy with worry,
decades of turmoil and injustice and life’s folly,
or whether these lecherous ladyfingers had become laminate
as the hands that doled out beatings, ear-cuffings,
being the manacles that held down and slapped,
I won’t pretend to know.  But like dried candybars
they crumbled and dissolved as I put her change
in her despicable palm, her fingernails crunching
like bugs under her tires as she drove off.
I laughed, and so did everyone else who saw it.

OK, me again.  The time I spent living in Flemington was so early in my sobriety, I was counting the days I had been sober.  Today is day ten, today is day 27, and on and on.  It is a practice unlike any other, to count one’s life back into existence.

Within the recovery community, the first really big milestone is 90 Days.  Newly-sober people are often encouraged to do a “90 in 90”, meaning to go to an AA or NA meeting every day for your first 90 days.  I did not do a 90 in 90, but my 90 day anniversary was still a big deal.  As such, my mother took me out for ice cream to celebrate. She took me to a little village of shops in Flemington–the chic kind of place with cute little shack-like buidlings with outlets in them, and quaint little restaurants with only 6 tables in them.  We had ice cream (I had pistachio) at a free-standing ice cream shop in the middle of a brick-lined shopping plaza.  For whatever reason, it’s always been something I remembered very distinctly, and I hadn’t been back there until today.  It’s all mostly the same, but the ice cream shop is a bakery now:

When you’re writing so much poetry (and often with such grandiose ideas), you end up missing the mark a lot.  One of my biggest disappointments from this period are my “thick days” poems.  It was my big poetic ideal to, on certain anniversary days, to write a poem about what it felt like to be sober that many days.  I ended up with three poems,  “75 Thick Days”, “90 Thick Days” (written the day of my pistachio ice cream) and “Thick Days Forever” about being sober, y’know, from here on out.  It was a good idea, but it was pretty much all idea and no substance, and I’ve always cringed when reading them since (they appeared in my second collection of poetry from Flemington, The Mundorf Bench).  But, even though they suck, I’ve never presented them online before, and being back at the ice cream stand today convinced me to do so, warts and all.  I also find it interesting and a tad terrifying that I refer to myself in these as young man.  Here they are:

75 Thick Days

I have inserted
75 thick days
between it and myself
I have licked
and kicked
and battered
the beast
for 75 thick days
and it is rather amusing
spying it reeling
still possessing strength
to lob me doubts
are you strong enough
young man?
Will time really tell?
When does
one of us
win?

How vigilant are bottles?

90 Thick Days

Such optimism
such a varicose life
laid before
and neatly stacked
beautifully puckered
within each day
such soberism
makes a nice wife
but a bad whore
old days packed
away and suckered
for this new way
these thick days
each day a prism,
the sharpest knife,
the brightest shore,
the ceiling shellacked.
90 days puckered
as if to say
they are here to stay.
I now await the next one with ease.
They have taught me something new:  “Please…”

Thick Days Forever

There will always be the graduations of younger folks
and who doesn’t like to see those fast happy times,
and music never stops being made for us to listen to,
bless those musicians.  Maybe dancing.
Or maybe singing; one can always take lessons
and, presumably, become good at almost anything,
with time, with enough days,
and so much usable time, so many precious tickings,
the message of moments easily lost or confused
so that choices become blurred or marred.
Perhaps hangliding, or bungee jumping, or such things affirming.
Or just to wander curiously about, not limiting
yourself into opulent categories or expensive specializations
but just to peek and peer under this,
above that,
seeing what such-and-such is made of
and how it does it.
Oh, with enough time, enough days
the world could become a tiny place indeed.
Nary a thing undiscovered, unfetched.
The days taper off like a coastal shelf,
and with enough of them, one becomes immersed.
What a view from here!
From these thick days, forever.

2 Responses to “Flemington, Again”

  1. I could picture a mechanical Disney villain spouting the entire poem of “75 Thick Days” as you pass it on a ride in Disneyland.

    I blame Boston Market for my obesity. When I moved out and started going to college I made a pledge to finally eat like a sane person and I totally did. Then three months into my revolution my Nana sent me a Boston Market gift card for my birthday and I’ve been eating lard-like food ever since. Damn good food though! I wish there were more of them.

  2. […] This was a little over eleven years ago.  I went to live with my mother and her husband in a small town in New Jersey.  This was the first time I’d lived anywhere outside of Central Pennsylvania.  This small […]

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