Archive for women

And to think I spent twenty years thinking art films and shoegaze rock were the meaning of life.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on December 19, 2016 by sethdellinger


First Date

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on October 4, 2016 by sethdellinger

I don’t remember the first time I saw Karla.  It would make a better story if I could, but I don’t.  I was 16 or 17 and working at McDonalds.  It was a lousy job but looking back I can see I loved it there.  I loved my co-workers.  There was a lot of laughing.  One day Karla got a job there.  I don’t remember the first time I saw her but there’s little doubt I took notice.

Very shortly after she started working there, I had somehow finagled a date with her. I have no idea how the date got set up–this is 22 years ago, so we’re basically talking about a different life.  I don’t remember narrative details but I remember her.  I remember being mesmerized by her while I worked.  She was demure, beautiful–but it was more than that.  There was something different in the way she carried herself; everything about her movements, facial expressions, even her tone of voice suggested a deep inner life, as though her existence itself might convey an intense meaning, if it could only be unlocked.  Even as a sixteen year old boy, these mysteries were magnetic.

We went on a date.  I was terribly excited and nervous.  I had, in fact, just stopped working at the McDonalds when our date happened, and had begun working as a dishwasher at Eat ‘n Park.  We decided to go to Eat ‘n Park for dinner.  I assume we had more date planned for afterward, but again–too much time has passed for me to remember.

As soon as we walked in the Eat ‘n Park lobby, things went awry.  My boss saw me and asked why I wasn’t at work!  I had been scheduled to work and not known it, somehow.  Quite distressed, Karla and I had to cut our date short before it had even started.  I felt like a total bozo.  She left and I went to the back to start washing dishes, only to discover my manager had been wrong and I wasn’t scheduled to work!  Alas–this was 1996 or 1997–none of us had cell phones or Facebook or anything.  She was just…gone.

I don’t know what happened after that, but we didn’t try again.  We had one date and we never even ordered dinner.  Over the next twenty years, I would, of course, live a full life; I would have a list of “ones that got away”.  But even after just that one short date, Karla’s name and face stayed with me and surfaced often.  I wondered about her.  What had I missed out on?  What churned below her stoic surface?  What cosmic secrets did she hold tight to?  Few people that I have encountered in my life seemed so vested with weighty things.

At some point, social media started happening.  It took me awhile to find her on Myspace; her last name had changed and I didn’t know it.  I finally did find her, but then, as now, she has never been very active on social media, and so we didn’t communicate much.  And of course that name change meant she was unavailable, besides.

It was probably for the best, because I wasn’t ready for her yet, not then, but after many more years passed and Facebook made everyone much more closely connected and she was getting ready to change her name back…I sent a message to her that was very well-timed.  I didn’t even know that I was ready for her, and everything she brought with her, but I was.  After seeing each other twice, we both knew.  We just…knew.

Now I get to keep unlocking the secrets of the universe with this woman for the rest of my life.  It’s easy to get sad by our missed “first date”, but it’s the best thing that ever happened to me–it made me wait twenty more years, until I was really ready.


Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2015 by sethdellinger

Despite the fact that it is an impossibility in this version of the universe, I sometimes imagine what it would be like to lose you.  It is, I understand, just a thought exercise.  But it is nonetheless intensely powerful, and a little debilitating.  The depth of sorrow I can experience in just these few moments alone with a hypothetical–it is indescribable.  You out in the wide world, somehow not in my orbit, no longer my anchor and my sail, and I am alone late at night (it is always late at night in this thought exercise) and I am always holding, for whatever reason, a corded landline phone, waiting for I don’t know what.
This isn’t a sad exercise; it’s glorious for reminding me that you are my lady, and you are a glorious lady.


Tonight I drove to the movie theater and back.  It wasn’t incredibly late at night; 9pm on the way there, close to midnight on the way back, but it felt much later than that.  The roads were empty and even Dunkin Donuts was closed, but the night had that great mid-summer heat and glow, as though the whole world had been swimming all day in a very chlorinated pool.  I saw the new Mission: Impossible movie and it was pretty good.  I thought about you and the way your jaw juts out a little bit–really it’s practically imperceptible–when you are worrying about something.  It’s a small glimpse into your inner universe.  It’s a magical moment, when I get glimpses like that.  I wish I was in there with you.

I was listening to a Seven Mary Three mix disc I’ve made myself and I had the song Favorite Dog on repeat.  The lyrics have nothing (or very little, or who knows, really?) to do with me or us, but the dirge-like buildup and dreamy crescendo and Sisyphean lyrics bled into my ruminations.  That’s my other hand, open and empty. It wants one too, I guess. That’s my other jaw, swollen and shameless. It talks too much, I know.


The neighborhood we live in is pockmarked; pockets of new buildings, swaths of blight, dozens of playgrounds: some new, some disgusting.  Office buildings and squalid churches and a new-ish Red Cross headquarters.  It doesn’t know what it wants to be, this neighborhood, although I’m confident some day it will sort everything out.  For now it’s enough that we live here, together, and our neighbors are nice and we have a huge bathtub and don’t worry about much and it’s a safe neighborhood.

There seem to be more people on motorized wheelchairs than I see elsewhere.  And chicken bones; a lot of people seem to eat chicken wings here and leave them on the ground, which is strange.  But the ice cream truck stops many places, and frequently, and plays cheery tunes with that twinkly horrible bell.  Sometimes when you’re up in bed, I slip out the front door and buy a cone.  They are creamy and luscious and melt down my hand by the time I’m back inside our air conditioned living room.

Last week we were driving down Harris Street toward Sixth and, outside an old barber shop that I had assumed was no longer in business, there were dozens of chairs sitting on the sidewalk; perhaps ten recliners, maybe three or four dining room 1chairs, and a few folding chairs.  At first we thought some small event was taking place, but as we pulled up beside them, it was obvious they were for sale.  Just chairs.  We were incredulous and we laughed and were baffled.

A few days ago I was walking our dog and just a few blocks from our house I came upon an old wooden chair that had been partially disassembled.  It sat boldly on the corner of the sidewalk as though it belonged there; I couldn’t help but remember the barber shop of a few days before.  I thought to myself, we live in a neighborhood of chairs.  I know this is nonsense and is not meaningful, but it sounds meaningful.


…and they’re barking at me, yeah they’re working on me, just like my favorite dog.  Geronimo!  Look out below!  I love that rusty water like it was my favorite dog…


Much, much more than most people (I assume) I become instantly and strongly aware that I am a creature scurrying across the outer crust of a planet in the massive and unpredictable universe.  You know how, in science fiction movies, sometimes the protagonists land on a planet they weren’t prepared for, and when they step out onto the surface, it is often something recognizable to us but also partly mystifying and different, and you think how you’d like to explore that world, see how it works?  I am frequently struck by that sensation on our own world.  From our current house, I need only walk six blocks to be standing beside the Susquehanna River–massive amounts of water which has all found its way into one spot, moving along together, flowing, flowing, never stopping, against a backdrop of a blue atmosphere and low mountains dappled with bushy green trees.  I’m on a planet, I think to myself, and nearly faint.

A few months ago I was at my father’s house out in the country when an especially intense weather pattern blew through the area and I stood outside with the neighbors, watching in awe as a tornado almost formed in the farmer’s field across the road. The massive dark and white clouds were moving faster than I could have imagined, swirling into and out of each other, turning 11148570_10206509552443317_4647072801334266283_oon end, pitching and yawing, an intricate dance choreographed by pressures beyond my ability to fathom, powers pulled from even beyond the Earth but the laws of the universe itself.  Suddenly the pressures above turned their powers toward us and a gush of air was blown directly down, the strangely warm air like a very strong wind blowing at the ground.  A gargantuan black cloud passed over our heads so close it was almost fog, and so fast it was almost an airplane, and then in an instant, it was gone, had moved past us, onto the next crop of onlookers elsewhere.  As I walked inside I said to my father in the living room, I have never felt so much like I was on a planet!  As I was walking out to the kitchen to get a drink I heard him reply I already know I’m on a damned planet! 

Just a few days ago, my dear, we were driving on one of these lengthy but truly scenic highways that Central Pennsylvania supplies us with by the dozens, and when we rounded a bend, we saw the light coming through holes in a cloud, we could see the light’s rays dancing on the air, and we could see it land, slantingly, on the nearby bulbous mountaintop, lighting individual treetops.  It almost looked like a forest fire was raining from the sky.  I was breathless and you let me take your hand and you let me be amazed and you were amazed with me, here on the surface of this world.


…that’s my other head, open and bleeding, it thinks too much, I guess. That’s my other eye, swollen but fearless. It’s seen too much I know.  Geronimo!  Look out below!  I love that rusty water like it was my favorite dog…


It’s enough–it is so much more than enough–that your hair falls across your ear the way it does when you lay on the couch.  How you sigh after a long day’s work: it is tired but determined.  It is so much more than enough the way you always offer me water when I walk in the door, it is so much more than I ever would have asked for.  The way that your lips taste, always so sweet, like you had just put a dab of sugar on them, even that is all I need, all I could ever need, here in our neighborhood of chairs, here on the surface of our planet.


On Nerves

Posted in My Poetry with tags , , , on December 17, 2014 by sethdellinger

I remember
as a child
thinking about torture
(and since then I have come to understand torture is just

a clarification
of reality),

and I remember proposing
(to myself, alone, silently)
the limited susceptibility of a nerve
to abuse
(the diminishing capacity of a single nerve
to feel pain)
as proof
of some basic mercy
at the foundation of the universe.
Then, today, as I lay in bed,
my chest pressed to her back,
I hear (with my chest)
her heart beat,
how real it is,
and how separate–
how mercilessly separate,
and I wonder at the gall of nerves
to limit their susceptibility
to anything.


My Estuary

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , on October 16, 2014 by sethdellinger

I’ve never been able to ease into anything. The flow of life is like a torrent for me.  Even if on the surface the waters appear calm, underneath is all white water, broiling and frothing against the smooth-worn boulders; there is a reason my blog is Notes From the Fire; things froth, things flame, things roil.  There is no easing into anything. No easing.  And so much noise!  Even when living a life so alone, the noise is persistent, concussive.  Car commercials where celebrities I like encourage me to take on life-ruining debt, with shiny black wet city streets behind them.  Who can resist the allure of shiny wet black city streets?  And low-toned, vague voiceovers?  I am a sucker for those, they fool me every time into thinking they are genuine, real, thoughtful.  And handheld gadgets now, with push notifications that insist I stop what I am doing in order to read about the latest problems of the Italian Prime Minister, or Redbox wants me to rent the latest Ice Cube movie, or somebody liked my profile picture.  All the time with these gadgets, these gadgets.  I love them, but still, they yell at me. Screens during the day, screens at night, screens at dusk, inside and outside, my own screens and other people’s screens and screens larger than a house, they all want my attention, want to sell me things, want my fears and longings.  Worries about whether I should rearrange my furniture, or if I can get electrocuted simply by pounding a nail into a wall.  These are the things I worry about inside the torrent.  I worry about if people like me, even as I try desperately to be my most authentic self.  You can’t ever stop worrying if people like you, or if your parents are proud of you, or if your old friends wonder where you are because they won’t get Facebook, or if your elementary school teachers are dead, or what happened after the end of LOST, or why my bank charges me to use other ATMs, or why I feel so tired sometimes, and sometimes not tired for days or weeks or what seems like years, to the point that sometimes I miss being tired.  I wonder what kind of trees line my street, and I hope against hope that someday I’ll be the kind of man who can identify trees simply by looking at them; oh, that’s an elm, I’ll say someday, and everyone will be astonished, and I will be a successful man.  I want to impress people.  I worry so much about impressing people, while trying so very hard to not appear to be trying to impress them.  I don’t want to impress people with flashiness, but with content; I want to surprise people with my wit and intellect.  I suspect this is still not a positive trait.  And then there are things like train times, and bike tires, and inseams, and manscaping. Oh, the noise, the torrent of rushing life, it’s like the incessant beating of distant drums that will not stop, perhaps on a Friday night in the fall and it is the sound of a high school football game, just down the road in town, and the band is banging out a rousing rendition of some old classic, but it just won’t stop, won’t fade away, because that’s the real nature of things, isn’t it?  To not fade away? To persist, if only in memory or perception, and perception is where they get you.  And then there’s bills, of course, everyone hates bills, and the pulsating beat of work (go in! come back! go in! come back!) that heaves with the rise and fall of my sleeping chest as I dream about the same things that chase me as I’m awake, the bills and the Redbox notifications and the celebrities in the luxury cars or was it condos? Either way they want to ruin my life; either way I salivate at the thought of buying things—anything really—despite my abhorrence of it.  And it all (it’s all fears, really, right?) slops together in a big stew and rushes in frothy whitewater over the rocks (what are the rocks? Why, they’re everything, of course), rushes downhill without stopping forever in a painful deluge; at least, that’s what I thought.  That’s how it had always been. Then suddenly she floated downstream, too, and she found me and I held on.  Beyond her now I see the wide-open ocean, sloshing still, but not rushing and pounding—and behind us lay the rapids.  She bridges the gap, my estuary.

Love and Forgetting

Posted in My Poetry with tags , , on August 22, 2014 by sethdellinger

love and forgetting, two sides of
two different coins;

one perceives the curve of a bowl as the raw egg sliding down its side.
the other perceives the egg as a galaxy, the uncanny sun some relish feeling
on their faces.

one calls across a distance, Yoo-hoo!  Hello there!
one calls across the yard, You who?

one prefers the ornament and the closed-mouth kiss of morning.
one prefers French Horns and Trumpets with their hands down our throats.

peeling a banana, one is always posed in a thin white dress against a breeze.
one scoops the last bit of gelatin from a Depression-glass dish.

one stands waiting, expecting something.  wine, or maybe a storm.
the other comes like a horse gone days without water.

one sees a woman on her side, her stomach like pudding in the dark.
one sees nothing but the moon-drawn tide of one’s own body trespassing into the night.

love is so short,
and forgetting is so long.

The Foxes

Posted in My Poetry with tags , , , , , , on July 28, 2014 by sethdellinger

Here is some audio/ visual accompaniment I created to supplement my recent poem “The Foxes”.  The text of the poem is underneath the video.  I apologize for my sweaty face at the beginning; it kind of looks like snot running down my face.


The Foxes

The thrift store was having a sale.
How forlorn they looked,
the two red foxes dangling over a hanger,
sold separately.
They were whole bodies—
heads, legs, tails, even claws
except on one leg.

My friend giggled
as I wrapped one
then both around my neck.
They seemed alive
chasing each other around my shoulders.
They were warm,
nuzzling my ears.
Sold—the pair.

To celebrate their rescue
I wore them to coffee
at a nearby diner.
My friend said the woman at the register
grimaced when we walked in,
the foxes and I.
No, I said.
Yes, I’m certain, he said.

I gently laid them down
together, by my side in the booth.
A waitress brought a menu.
Oh no, she said when she saw them.

Do these people think
I could kill these babies next to me?
I would have freed them,
opened the trap,
nursed the severed paw.
I wear them as a tribute
to their beauty, their existence.

Does anyone think it was my fault?
Monica killing herself,
so alone there in Chicago.
I wasn’t there and she had called
the night before but I never answered
and now it’s been four years,
she’s long since dead in the ground
and I’ll never even visit the grave.

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