The Third Thing

That it is remarkable,
the change.

In these days
which now seem to extend,
expand to something other than minutes or hours,

I find myself mute,
able to hear my own voice,
the voice from my youth,
a voice to recognize,
but unheard outside.

I am motion without completion.
I call to her but she does not hear.

At one instant I am with my son,
and he is happy,
and I reach out to touch my boy on the shoulder,
but I am unable.

And then that is gone.

I recall a sweet taste in my mouth from childhood,
and it is there again.
I wonder about a friend and I am beside him
on a park bench from 1973, smoking a cigarette.

Curving light bringing me to it and then back
without the slightest understanding.

Then at other times
I find myself on unknown streets
where I walk on colored wet pavement
that crackles under my feet.
A world I am trying on for size.

And I can call to her but she does not hear.

Sometimes I find myself in a crowded room,
my friends, old and new around me.
And there is laughter and there is comfort,
and a day passes of this,
stiff drinks at a padded bar,
a meal, a game of pool,
a paperback’s broken spine,
a pretty sunset, a little boy singing a song,
the feel of a highway wind.

All the time I feel a pull.

And Judith.

She is sometimes at home,
in a way I remember her from when we were young.
When the world and she
seemed open and untethered.

Sometimes her secret life is still a mystery to me,
the frailties unknown.
We are pushing a stroller,
shopping for vegetables, young,
still reaching.

And sometimes she is as she was at the end,
a sort of impostor who arrived in our marriage
with a cartoon face, a funhouse reflection
of who I believed her to be,
and who she became.

And my old man.
He is there, too.
Sometimes as he would have been
at the end,
as an old man ready to be forgiven.

And other times as he was.
He at the wheel of a station wagon,
a cigarette between his fingers.
Terrible scenes in countless boyhood homes.
A night with his car on the front lawn,
my mother’s broken nose,
bloody clothes.
Him sitting on a toolbox
in the basement,
his rifle to his head.
His face, my face,
staring past the barrel,
always saying, but not saying,
this is for you, too.
This is what I leave you.

But other times there is no one I know.
And those times now outnumber the rest.

My aimless plans, my diffuse ambition, gone.
I think sometimes of these pages, and by thinking,
I see them, spilling out like October leaves
onto a table in front of me.
The stories make me laugh. I find it wondrous.
The heartbreaks seem small and vain.
I sweep the pages to the floor and
in an instant I forget everything that was on them.

And then I lose time. It has no hold on me.
I am in one place and a hundred all at once.

I sizzle with energy and the taste of metal in my throat.

I stretch and twist to make sense of these new images.

Yet some part of me still holds onto a small memory,
a moment before all of this.

In a room, on a couch,
in early morning,
someone said my name.

Flashing lights,
Judith on the periphery,
the sound of machines
and then my son reaching through.

It pulls something of me back,
and feels like something to save,
something that was mine that remained.

So I repeat my name until it begins to feel strange.
Until it is just a sound.

But it tires me, annoys me,
and what has held me down is gone.

I am surrounded by things I have
no names for
in a place which I cannot describe.

And there are arms lifting me.

Pfefferle, W.T. The Meager Life and Modest Times of Pop Thorndale. Rochester Hills (MI): NFSPS Press, 2007.