In Flemington

When I moved to New Jersey to live with my mother on April 3rd, 2003 to begin my sobriety, immediately a lot began waking up in me–physically and emotionally I finally began to move forward and move past the stilted 17-year-old that was inhabiting my 25-year-old body.  But I also began awakening to the world of art, media and culture.  I devoured books, movies and magazines–anything that was within arms’ reach.  I had been writing poetry for many years before I got sober–most of it truly terrible.  Now that my mind was waking up to the actual artistry of poetry (I was also ravenously reading poetry written by others at this time) I quickly began to form my own unique poetic voice; if I can take a moment to toot my own horn here, crafting a unique poetic voice is not easy and most people don’t really do it, but for about four years I wrote in a style that (I believe) I owned all to myself.  Now, I wrote some pretty good poems after those four years and will still occasionally crank out a humdinger, but not in Early Sobriety Seth Dellinger voice–I couldn’t write in it if my life depended on it anymore.  It’s a conversational, almost flippant tone with an underlying promise of elemental discovery (and 75% free verse, but I did dabble in forms).  Here is one of my favorites from that era, called “In Flemington”, almost certainly written before I even had 90 days of sobriety.  My mother lived in a little town called Neshanic Station, but it was near the bigger town of Flemington.  I would occasionally drive my car into Flemington and walk around, astounded by being sober and alive and possessing free will.


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.

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