UNDERGROUND VOICES: POETRY - 02/2012
On Why the Problem Goes Well Beyond Drinking
No impure substances for fifteen months;
my head now feels about as big as the world
and my heart is just as small.
Imagine you'd always dreamed of a place,
had come to find that it didn't really exist,
but were okay as long as you didn't admit that to yourself.
Now you don't even bother looking for that place anymore.
The old mansion has no more mysterious rooms to explore.
You've been relegated to a shotgun shack, where every room
is within footsteps and you know every square inch of the house
because you pace it and pace it, though your footsteps make no sound.
Give me another kind of cell: an empty bar somewhere near the water,
an ocean breeze, clack of bamboo, twinkle of lights, and clamor of wind chimes.
Give me a place to drink silently and with a purpose, circling, spiraling
spastically down, down into the deep blue like the dead or dying shark.
A Fishing Story
Many years ago, in the forest clearing
of a rustic campground, there were hummingbirds
darting in the sun-dappled morning
and there was me tying knots,
going about the business
of preparing to go out fishing,
and a whole lot of other foolishness
I thought was important at the time.
And then a girl appeared
at the water pump, trying to draw water
and to wash her hair gracefully
at the same time. I was a gentleman (of sorts)
and she was grateful for my help,
and so for a long, long time, I pumped
as she held her head in her hands,
gasping in pleasure at the cold rushing water.
Astonished that such a distant memory
leaves me nearly as speechless as I was then,
I still ache, as I did at the time, to hold her
in much the same way that she held herself.
When I finally came in from fishing
having caught nothing,
and having thought of her the entire time,
she was gone. I never knew her name.
I swore I wouldn't call this "The One That Got Away."
'But she had to have been at least this big,' I say to myself,
with my arms wrapped around my shoulders
in that old childish pantomime of kissing,
and barbs of regret still lodged like a hook
or a fishbone in my throat.
It's raining tonight, on Halloween
and three little neighborhood boys,
Spiderman, a wizard, a clown,
and their mothers have stopped by
to trick or treat and to ask:
"How do you say that in Spanish?"
"Dulces o travesuras," pipes up my three-year-old daughter,
playing to the crowd with just some of the many gifts at her disposal -
the unusual admixture of several native tongues,
two sparkling black eyes,
and those bountiful curls that are graced by a crown,
for tonight she is dressed, appropriately enough,
as the princess of all mermaids.
Like all fathers of great beauties
I have my biases and blind spots
and my vague hopes and fears,
but tonight I see clearly the great joy
and pain that this beauty will bring.
It's raining tonight, on Halloween.
Someday soon, after the masks have been put away
and children have grown tired and restless
or sick on their sweets,
this night will recede into little more
than a photograph or an anecdote,
and a vague and stormy memory
of the time her father foretold the future.
Tim Hawkins has lived and traveled widely throughout North America, Southeast Asia and Latin America, where he has worked as a journalist, technical writer, communications manager, and teacher in international schools, though his career has also taken some interesting detours into such posts as fish cannery slime table worker, nose-hair clipper model, and cram school teacher. His writing has appeared in numerous print and online publications, most recently in Blueline, Eunoia Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, The Midwest Quarterly, The Pedestal Magazine, The Shit Creek Review, and Verse Wisconsin. He was nominated by Four and Twenty for a 2012 Pushcart Prize.
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