Remembering

Sitting there frozen in
old memories, recalling our favorite
lines from Proust.
Trembling as I close my eyes,
hearing the joys and sorrows
of twelfth grade one last time.

I’m drowning in emotions; they tear at me,
pulling me beyond my fail safe
and I cringe, frightened.
Eyes wide shut, I misunderstand
the mirage, gazing at a chimara
of your face and I let out a sigh.

I catch glimpses of you across the meadow.
The sun dances through your hair;
your feet float above the grass
and you vanish behind our
favorite willow tree where my lips
first touched yours.

That summer of our wildness
was incomparable, a cruel yardstick
against which I’ve measured every
summertide of my later days,
struggling with the emptiness and
hollowness of everything not you.

If only I could un-lose you, hold you
securely, tightly, intensely,
like before.
Just for a moment, just for a season.
I reason with God—please let me keep
my first love.

Things were simple
back when I knew you.
Uncomplicated and sure. I smile
and reach for you—it’s second nature.
All this remembering has me
by the heart.

My present life is haunted—
I feel the warmth of you
on my sheets.
I catch faint remains of your sweet perfume,
and reach for something I can’t have.
Something I maybe never had.

©2020 Steven Barto

Pale As Milk

I live in a constellation of memories
of visits to Grandpa Roy and rides on his bulldozer,
visits to the hospitals where Uncle Jeff insisted on illness
for the free room, free meals, the free cable TV,
visits through the phone line after midnight
when Uncle Culby wanted to play me a song
by The Who after a few days off his meds—
we never visited him
in the psych wards or in jail,
we never visited Jeff on the skids,
we never visited our own Pop
aside from Sunday afternoons,
and I wonder now
where he spends his Sundays,
or if his last was spent alone.

We never visited our family’s men for any celebration
until we collectively broke the law
when we broke into that golf course by moonlight
to scatter Grandpa Roy’s ashes
and I sat there in Pop’s driver’s seat, sixteen,
permitted to drive only with an adult
but only my thirteen-year-old brother beside me

as I gripped the wheel and squinted at the shapes
approaching from the darkness—the strangest
figures in full stride—my uncles,
wet from the golf course sprinklers, laughing,
and then Pop’s boots crunching gravel—
the first time I’d seen my father run.
And he too was wet, but also pale as milk,
not laughing, not even in the neighborhood
of a smile,
as I turned the key
and he shoved me from the seat
to drive.

Jason Allen

Jason Allen is a poet and prose writer with an MFA from Pacific University. He is currently living in upstate New York and pursuing a Ph.D. in creative writing at Binghamton University, where he is an editor for Harpur Palate and at work on his first book of poetry, a memoir, and his second novel. His work has been published or is forthcoming in: Passages North, Oregon Literary Review, The Molotov Cocktail, Paterson Literary Review, Spilt Infinitive, Cactus Heart, Pathos, Life With Objects, and other venues. He hopes to one day meet Tom Waits and buy him a cup of coffee.