Flirting with Despair
Becoming reacquainted at the station café,
I have been flirting with Despair
for the last few weeks.
I was picking up a banana nut muffin,
and a carton of low-fat milk,
she a Thai Iced Coffee.
We reached for the same straw.
Our hands touched.
She is a lovely little heathen
with a sixties vintage fashion sense.
Her charming crooked smile and
tangle my heart,
walnut curls blessed with streaks of red
slither down to
lick her neck.
We spend each morning together
seated at a table,
or strolling the park grounds.
There is a certain naiveté about her,
in her movements and mannerisms,
the haphazard way she carries her camera,
her overstuffed notebook
filled with morbid sketches.
Against a Postmodern sculpture
full of color and life
she took my picture.
My imaged blurred, burned into the oranges and yellows.
Only my shadow visible
grotesque and spider-like
fragmented on the grey concrete
Yesterday, as we walked through
the park in the pickled morning air,
she told me of a man she knew
(a car designer)
(a gentle socialite)
(a headstrong eight year old)
died in a boating accident.
They were on vacation.
He was sleeping in the cottage.
overcome by grief
he could not return to his life
or his work,
spending his days as a recluse
locked in a house
he was about to lose.
“I cleaned his gun for him” she confessed
recounting how he methodically
shot off his toes
carefully aiming each shot
sometimes taking out two at a time
sometimes just one
sometimes missing altogether
and she became dizzy in the spectacle
the deafening explosion
reverberating against the bare walls
that trapped the cloistered swirling smoke
a salty smell of iron thickly hovering
small bursts of
ripped skin and blood drops
splattering about the room after each shot.
She popped a peppermint.
Despair would wipe the man’s brow
with her handkerchief,
cradle his head to her shoulder
stroke his hair
coo to him sweet reassurances of regret
savoring the violent and empty futility of life.
When the pain became too much
she helped to steady his shaky hands
clear his clouded eyes
another toe obliterated.
“What reason he had for this horrible act
he wouldn’t say,
or why he kept uttering ‘ma petite ballerine’.
It was all he would say.”
Blood seeped from his ghastly abused feet
soaking the bed covers
dripping into macabre pools on the hardwood floor.
She kissed his cheek
wet with sweat and tears,
urging him on.
He raised the gun to his head
for the triumphant crescendo
of his magnum opus
and pulled the trigger.
The only response was a
With a dumfounded look on his face
he passed out.
“I called an ambulance for him and left my card on his desk.”
She laughed. A nasal grating laugh
like the metallic squeal of a swing
“Laughter is the only answer
We reached the street corner
where we normally parted ways,
a rancid odor lifted by a small breeze
emanated from the sewer
at our feet.
By a newspaper stand a man in a cowboy hat stood,
his head slightly tilted down.
Across the intersection
a police car waited at a red light,
the windshield dark and reflective,
and I wondered if I
was just as invisible.
I wanted to say I loved her,
but only managed to ask her to come home with me
that her beauty gave me a dark solace and
wrapped me in its
“Beauty is an engineered product, though.
Like sticky notes and fighter jets.”
I implored her
waxing in my vanity
and waning in embarrassment
as I spoke about compassion, pity,
She smiled dismissively.
“Truth? He is a nasty old man.
An author, you know, without any words.”
“What about hope?” I asked.
The ringing clatter of singing birds
skipped along the dew drops
on the hallow grass behind us.
gave an incredulous look
filled with familial animosity,
perhaps a hint of jealousy,
“What about her?”