Asbury Park

for G. 

Knowing when something is over
isn’t an ending of love,
which has no beginning or end—
and nothing—not anger, or even indifference
can erase these stories written in Sharpie ink.
Even after the notebooks are filling boxes in the attic—
because no, the archives of the mind aren’t like that,
they’re always dynamic—more like a jukebox,
and the quarters of scents and dreams, a cheesy joke
or a song you once shared like an egg cream,
double-strawed, Norman Rockwell-style,
will make you stop and dance.
And that’s OK.

Dancing doesn’t mean regret.
Singing along to the lyrics isn’t remorse.
At this soda counter, there are no jerks,
and the retro décor is just an indication
that this will always be a sort of home
we can revisit and browse the comic rack,
even if this town grew too small
for two Marty McFly’s to live in.

There will always be these things
that fill up a king-sized time capsule
as we head back to the future.
We became too different and too alike.
The faces on the photos would have faded,
like the pictures from that photo booth
in Asbury Park—near that store
that sold scary skull earrings—
black and white, overexposed
with time. They say familiarity breeds
contempt—or is it context?
A seeing from afar:
you inside the crashing waves, loving the big
and kinetic as you do—and me
sitting at the shore, hearing Burning Spear playing
from the bar with its fake palm trees and strings of lights—
still and vigilant, and looking for tiny shells
with my tiny eyes, as I do.
My eyes, that scrutinize and fence in your bigness,
and your limber hands and arms, that I loved and still love,
that would be the arms of dolphins if they had opposable thumbs,
move too fast for me and I blink and hold mine up to block
their trajectory. You were always just playing.
I was always just planning, anticipating how to work around your dance,
until I lost my own rhythm. I learned to count shells quietly
and wait for you at the tide.
Context is everything.
We are two ships built for different waters,
and when I say goodbye
I don’t mean goodbye exactly—
I mean we need to disembark from this port
where our toes can touch in the waves,
but we’ve lost our use of radar.
I mean I need to find my extremes—
to explore Caspar David Friedrich’s polar ice caps
on a broken glass ocean,
and the blackest pressures of the hadal zone.
You need the dapple of sunlight
and the rush of breezes through palm leaves.
And that’s OK.

Does familiarity breed contempt,
or context?
I say it’s content—
these boxes stuffed full until the covers won’t close.
Almost nine years.
My child’s teeth have fallen and grown in,
my limbs weakened and faltered.
Different haircuts, deaths
and near-deaths around us,
births. Tolerance of the foreign
and sometimes, ridiculous. Jam sessions
and me rolling my eyes in the car
while you have to go pet an alpaca
you don’t know.
Meltdowns and meditation,
cringing and conscious transformation.
The songs that used to be ours
have been given back to the cosmos,
but will always be watermarked with our love-stamp,
invisible to all but us and the akashic archivists.
We are different people today
and that’s OK.

Dancing doesn’t mean regret.
Context doesn’t mean contempt.
There will always be these things
that filled me with you. They are still there.
I am big enough to hold them all inside me
as I re-learn to weather the storms and trenches
my heart was born for.
We are two sailors with different vessels,
but we will always have these moments,
and especially this:
Asbury Park, walking across Cookman Ave,
Dutch butter-coffees in hand, and the boardwalk
which, before Hurricane Sandy mauled,
lodged itself in my daughter’s foot for a year
until the splinter finally made its exit.
Batman Returns on the big screen outside
and the smells of blown glass, arcade games,
antiques and cotton candy. The forest of stumps
and Deal Lake’s swan boats circling,
self-consciously asking us to notice
all the candy-coated mansards and gables.
(If only Madame Marie could have predicted this.)
“Keep Asbury Park Weird,” scrawled on the dirty bathroom
walls, over the layers of cracking paint—broken marble tiles streaked
with sand—as the hipster cafés, oyster bars and artisanal bakeries
moved in with their new smells of chai and beachfront merchandise—

OK: I admit. I want you to stay weird too.
But I can’t tell you to not gentrify your life
or to accompany me to all the off-the-beaten path
places—literal or figurative—that aren’t resorts
and only have port-a-potties
(because I know how you are about that).
Maybe I never really knew you,
or maybe I just saw the candy-coated you from across the lake
of longing, and wished I could inhabit that comfortable
and orderly land of gingerbread trim and always-made beds
that made me feel, in context, like the Big Bad Wolf.
(That context thing again.)
Even though you needed everything “just right”
because “too hot” or “too cold” felt like death.
Maybe I tried to change you, rewrite the tale
to make you into the fairy who grants wishes.
I mean, you’re good at promises
and those arms always looked like they could wrangle
with sea monsters.
It’s not you—it’s me.
It’s not me—it’s you—

but learned I am the monster,
and it was myself I was running from all along.
And that’s OK.

Knowing when something is over
isn’t an ending of love.
I may be far from land now
and still new to this whole radar thing,
but I will always, somehow, love you.
I will always carry our story
in assorted places, too scattered to gather
neatly and file in one place.
Because love isn’t like that,
not after this long.
We have too many pages,
too many artifacts,
and I was never good at organization.
I am going to love again,
and I will do it in a way that crashes all the waves into me
and defies all fears of dying.
But I have not forgotten our story.
I will keep it in a safe place,
and someday when we’ve traveled far enough,
we’ll return to port, as fellow sailors—
sharing new tales of the sea.

© Psyche Marks 2017

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