Saturday, February 20, 2010

Addison House

I found the following poem as I was checking to see if I had any other material on Jane, and now that there are at least four of us from Addison House on Facebook, I thought it might be fun to post it up and tag the group on it. I wrote it in 1992, a couple of years after I moved to So. Cal:

Addison House

     Once a month
     (Or, at least, that's what we'd hoped)
     We'd form a hug circle and listen.

     It was a time for asking and appreciation.

     It was a spider-web beautiful pattern, negotiated and cherished
     Like every kind of love

     Do I miss that?
     Are you kidding?

     Oh, there were the rough times.
     Terri's window pane shattered exile.
     Laura's enmeshment and severing.
     Jim's retching in the bathroom from so much back-pain.

     And then there were the absurd times.
     Charles asked for something and I said,
     "Only if you stand on a chair and sing a song from 'My Fair Lady' in a high, squeaky voice."
     And he did!
     (You have to know Charles.)
     Or discovering amazing connections with Scott.
     Or the panic that swept the house
     When Jeanette's brother killed a woman in San Jose.

     But, mostly, I miss the talking
          To Jim
          To Susan
          To Nina
          To Charles
          To Terri
          To Scott
          To Tad
          To Meredith
          To Laura
          To Jeanette
          To Lori
     And the home we made together.


At this point I have no idea what "Laura's enmeshment and severing" meant. Forgotten in the mists of time.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Final Fragment/Young Love Part 11

And, at last, we reach the final gem:

Untitled XI

          Unasking and surprised,
               You gave me your touches, laughter and conversation
          I asked for love
               You took back your touches
          I asked for touching
               You took back your laughter
          I asked for friendship
               You took back your conversation
          I have nothing left to ask
               You have nothing left to take

Aw, Little Mertseger!


          You gave me friendship
               I gave you pain
          You gave me attention
               I gave you pain
          You gave me nothing
               I gave you pain

Well, no. You are being melodramatic, LM. You gave her mild discomfort and awkwardness in a tight living situation. You were, essentially, a rash. You could be ignored except for the occasional flare-ups.

          You can give me nothing less
               I can give you nothing more


          Because you and I could not be an us
          Because I was too self-possessed
          Because you were too afraid

No, not really. She was just uninterested and hoping that avoiding Little Mertseger would not be too much of a hassle in the short-term.

          Because I expected too much
          Because you felt too little
          Because you and I were too young in many ways

Actually, that's reasonably accurate

                    And so?

          You and I can grow from this
          If we let

And that's where it all ends, fragmentary and incomplete, like many such sagas.

I had a meeting Berkeley today. Here's where the whole tragicomedy occurred:

I found solace in music that horrible last quarter playing on the streets of Berkeley with a group called (yes) The Troubadours.

Tim changed universities after that quarter, and Jane and he broke up. A year or so later (okay, I'll kiss and tell) Lisa Nakamoto gave me my first kiss (which may amuse any of my high school friends who might find this post up on Facebook). I asked Lisa out a couple of times immediately after that, but she did not want to take it any further. Two year later I had my first real, albeit brief, relationship.

I did see Jane a few times thereafter. I had a hot tub party at my folk's place three years later, and both Jane and Tim came (I got to see Jane in a one-piece! More fuel for the fire.) Jane and I went out twice alone together in the years following: we went to the SF Zoo right after she graduated, and I had lunch with her on one visit to So Cal (I bought her a dozen safely yellow roses, but did not give them to her.)

Seven years after the mess, I took a job teaching at Cal State Fullerton while I finished up my PhD.,and gave her a call from my depressing institutional, windowless office once I was settled in. I caught a huge whiff of the "you may be stalking me" vibe from that conversation, and, finally, let it go. In following year I started dating in earnest.

I have my regrets, and the whole episode was embarrassing. However, it opened me up in a lot of ways, and I do not, for all that, regret the poetry. I do not regret the aspiration and the lust. I do regret the dorkiness and lack of anything remotely resembling cool. However, it was a step on the way, and the message in the end is that it does get better. For all the mistakes, it does get better.



Danny has thoughtfully provided a picture of many of the participants:

From left to right, that's Chris, Danny, Some Guy From Another Floor Who We Really Didn't Like And Did Not Want In The Picture, Yvonne, Jane, Me, and Eric B. (explicitly not the same as Edie's boyfriend at the time, Eric H.) This was taken near the end of the year, and I was happy for the moment being next to her. That's probably Danny's bed we're all on. I don't know why Jane had a pillow with the word "Bullshit" on it.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Divine Oracle of False Hopes/Young Love Part 10

Back in the second quarter before the end of life as I knew it, things had gotten marginally better, and Jane was not avoiding me entirely

Untitled IX

(When I converted all these poems to HTML years ago, I gave the untitled ones a number.)

          To revel in the inexplicable
          To find delight in swirling confusion
          To laugh while facing the intractable
          To smile at deception and illusion
Mottos that I still try to live by. 
Unfortunately, Little Mertseger did not think these things were good at the time.

          Do you want me to care and not to care?
          Do you want me to play and stay away?
Did Jane give me some mixed signals?  Well, when your every action and expression is being monitored like it's an oracle of the Goddess Aphrodite, then mixed signals are inevitable.  Any mixed signals were purely a matter of LM's interpretation. 
I carried a torch for Jane for way too long.  At one point in grad-school I sent her a mix-tape(!) and letter lightly wishing we could go nude bowling on a tropical island somewhere (!!).  She replied with a friendly letter, much to my surprise.  The perfume on the otherwise innocuous letter was enough to make me pine for another two or three years.  Did she intend to put perfume on the letter, or did she not wash her hands that morning?

          I can’t know and remain unaware.
          I want to understand you.  There’s no way.
No, LM, you do not want to understand.  You do not want to accept a clear and direct rejection.  You want to cling to false hopes.

          I’ve watched the beauty play across your face
          Happy to be talking to you again.
I wish I could have just enjoyed those moments.  But lust demands more, does it not?  Sigh...

          Do you want me to help you find your place,
          And yet not want me to help at all, Jane?
Because it's her interests that I really have in mind.  What bullshit.

          I guess I care too much and not enough
          Why does this friendship have to be so rough?
No, LM, Jane awoke in you a good old animal rut, and from the moment you declared your love for her and she said no it could never really be a friendship, not while your desire remained overwhelming. 
Just one more poem to go in the grand saga of....sigh...Jane.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Martyrdom for Idiots/Young Love Part 9

It was the last year of quarters at Cal: next year they would switch to semesters.  I returned from winter-break in full wallow mode for the second quarter.  I thoroughly given up the ghost that I was writing for Jane, and so these last three poems were written with no expectation that she would ever see them.

A Second Rather Poor Love Sonnet Written ‘Midst a Typical Crush

I'm sure you will be pleased to know that there is no third one in the series.

          Pound it down, the nail beaten into flesh:
Wait, is Little Mertseger really going to compare his unrequited love for Jane to ...

          Every time I see your smile I’m hung
          On a cross-spanned moment, feeling the fresh,
As Pamie said, "Jesus." 

          Daylong torture until my spirit’s sunk
          In a stormy hell of frustrate desire.
          My every strand of hope has unraveled
          And burned in the unnoticing fire
Which is it, crucifixion or immolation?  Make up your mind, LM!

          Of your eyes from which I cannot travel.
Now that is an awkwardly constructed sentence.

          Dead, I am not God to rise and heaven find,
          And so my soul treads the long, awful miles
          To the Last Despair, my body left behind
Ah, yes, the Random Capitalization of deep significance.  Unfortunately, I still use that device. 

          An empty husk crucified by your smiles.
"Crucified by your smiles" is good.  Probably not good enough to build an entire sonnet around.

          Only your touch will warm these cold remains,
          And until that time I will Rest In Pain.
The deepest irony here is, of course, that while I was perfectly aware that I was being a martyr and that I had enough detachment to connect my unrequited love for Jane to earlier crushes on women who I had never really interacted, things were not really as bad as they could be and things were going to get worse. 
In the second quarter of quarter of my junior year I took the hardest class of my college career:  Mathematical Analysis.  The course essentially takes all the results you might be taught in your first year Calculus course if you're a science or engineering major and proves them rigorously.  IIRC, we started off with the axiom that 0 does not equal 1, and proved 1+1 = 2 in the first problem set.  The take-home final had us prove a version of the Brouwer Fixed Point Theorem (every continuous function of a compact set to itself will map at last one point to itself) which sounds remarkably esoteric until you learn that it's very much on the same line of reasoning that results in the Nash Equilibrium of A Beautiful Mind fame.  Fueled, in part, by the sublimation and avoidance of whole...sigh...Jane crisis, I got one of my three A+'s, the one that I'm most proud.
After picking up my grade that afternoon I asked Jane's roommate Yvonne if Jane and Tim were a thing.  She said yes, and I became some form of the walking dead as I headed into spring break.
I suppose it could have been worse.  I never heard sex sounds coming from their rooms, nor even saw them kissing.  They were considerate of my feelings and discrete.  But when the last episode of MASH screened that spring, the rest of the floor gathered in Tim's room to watch, and I went to watch in the lounge on the ground floor sad that she was watching in his arms as Hawkeye went insane.