FACTS: You and I, three minutes old, Your dark expression jeers At me as though set in a trance. You sniff me out, You peck at my soul You mock my skin, With your piercing eyes. My innocence insists back ever so quietly While you accuse me of trying to filch That ratty old bag you cart (Which is your entire life)? No one else listens…but I can’t help Staring, already trapped in your maze. Like puppy dogs, we prey Upon each other’s passions, Like two pug-nosed kids, We snap away. You ask me my profession, When I say an actor in the theatre— Your face lights up, you dare me, “Good! Write about me in a play some day.” Then out of nowhere You are two and you are Working… Two, and You were working? I ask. And again, more suddenly, You remember a field, You smell roses and magnolia trees, There was cotton that you picked. You like gardens, you say, With a fierce pride, And you want the flowers now, Not for some hereafter while. You look at me, chewing out my life, Which by now, in my mind, is but a Seedling glimmer to pry. When you burp so loudly The giggles take hold of me Till you shout you’ve had enough, That you are going to kill your Sister that night. As soon as I ask, “Why!” Without pausing, your speech spins Me for a ride, “Cause she’s been sleeping With my husband for the last two weeks.” The train roars into the station As you tell me about hell in a shelter And all loss of pride. It’s all I can do To ask you your name While I get onto the car. The doors are closing as You spell it out, me stunned, Knocking wildly on the glass Wanting to take back time. God bless I mumble as the RR train Steals me from your side. AFTER THE FACT: Elenora Singleton— I left you on a NYC subway platform Nearing midnight on a Tuesday in August of ’79. You had nowhere to go, And I had nowhere to take you, Except in my memory’s heart. At the time I doubted your truth about Working the fields at two, but that mention of Cotton, much like the color of my skin, Made me cringe at the thought that your Recollections might be right. You had such conviction About your story, framed like some tragic Othello. That strength of yours, from the turmoil Within, left its passing shadow on my life.
About the Poet:
Tobias Maxwell is the author of three novels, The Month After September, The Sex and Dope Show Saga, and Thomas; a novella, And Baby Makes Two; three memoirs, 1973—Early Applause, 1977—The Year of Leaving Monsieur and 1983—The Unknown Season; and a poetry collection, Homogium.
His material has appeared in, Balita and Mom…Guess What Newspapers, in The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, Worlds, LA Edge, Art & Understanding, New Century and The California Therapist Magazines. His one-act play, The Mary Play was republished in 2014 by Black Lawrence Press in Art & Understanding: Literature from the First Twenty Years of A&U. You can find more by visiting his website and blog at: tobiasmaxwell.com