An old and dear friend, longtime resident of Los Angeles arrived on Saturday for a too-short stay of eight days. It’s been at least fifteen years since Shelby and I were together, but never in that time have we been out of touch. We met at a time when we were young and starry-eyed, calling ourselves “New Yorkers” and despite our different moves across the map, the closeness has nonetheless remained vital across all distances. Somehow, despite the years and distance, Shelby found the time to visit me in Tokyo, and I the opportunity to visit her in Los Angeles. Seeing this friend again is the greatest of blessings.
In the late of evening our talk wandered down old paths, touching on the people and events that colored our lives at one time, filling in blanks and reliving some of the many experiences we shared. Shelby told me about a poet she likes and how his work encouraged her—a confessed non-writer—to put her thoughts down on paper in an attempt to understand, vent frustration or slough off an incident in her own life. And telling me about it, she pulled out a piece of paper with a kind of free verse prose poem illustrating a feeling that boiled forth from a recent experience. I immediately wanted to share Shelby’s poem with others, but met with some reluctance on the writer’s part. Happily, I managed to convince her that the writing is well worth sharing.
When I saw the keys in the mailbox lock
I knew I would have my revenge.
Just the fact that my right-wing, hate spouting neighbors
might be left vulnerable by their oversight
pushed my imagination into overdrive.
The boogieman they had long feared was waiting
for them to err in his favor.
His smile was strangely satisfying.
He might creep in to watch them sleep,
steal their crap or just terrorize them in general.
He might take their junk-filled car
and drive it all the way to hell,
or maybe just to Mexico.
I started feeling diabolical. What else could I envision?
Maybe they would awaken tomorrow
and find their door wide open.
The shock on their otherwise blank faces
sets me giggling with delight.
The world invaded their lives
without their permission or knowledge
the way it does to most everyone else.
Would they see things differently
with such unexpected and long dreaded exposure?
Would they feel violated
and filled with a mind-numbing paralysis
that they had allowed the darkness inside?
(A darkness they have defined via fear-based newscasts
they watch daily involves drug addicts,
dark skinned strangers, homosexuals, whores,
terrorists, gypsies and idol worshipers)
The answer to that was yes!
definitely yes yes yes.
Would I get over my shame in the conception of this chaos?
The answer to that was probably not,
so I am determined to find a new definition of shame.
Something that works for me.