Oregon Leaves

Though you are going, you say that you love me.
Though I am going, I love you too.
Whoever may go, whoever may stay,
Whatever love may be, let us love.

Christina sat in the college library,
Studying the catalog for the coming year.
It wasn't her books that caught my eye,
But the golden hair, the secret smile,
The high cheekbones, the silky skin,
The perfect figure that belies her shortness.
But her name was on her books, a Finnish name.
I asked her about it, pronounced it correctly:
Her flashing green eyes went wide with shock.

Though you are going, you write me every week.
I'm going soon myself, but I phone you often.
This funny separation draws us close together.
Do you wake in the night, thinking that I'm there?

Tina brought me a doll in a pretty blue dress,
And placed it sitting on my computer.
"She'll keep an eye on you, when I'm not here."
I kissed the doll, I kissed its giver.
That night we loved for the very first time.
Her parents like me, but cannot approve
This strange-voiced man for their daughter's lover,
Self-employed then, unemployed now,
A few years older than her father or mother.

When you were here, I dreamed of you,
And all the things we'd do together.
I told you my dreams, you told me yours,
And we walked by the Willamette, holding hands.

Regina is Tina's closest friend,
So she brought her over and introduced her.
Gina's eyes are fiery brown, her skin like liquid chocolate,
Her hair is waves of midnight falling past her shoulders.
"I'm told this is the custom," she said,
And put a black doll next to Tina's.
She also gave me, with her full red lips,
The sweetest kiss I've ever tasted.
Gina snores softly when she sleeps, like a cat purring.

Now that you're gone, I still dream of you,
And it makes me happy — until I wake.
I still tell you my dreams, but the phone's no use
When I wake at night, holding a pillow.

Sparkling Katey, a couple years younger,
Likes to hang with Tina and Gina.
The doll she brought was customized,
Its hair cut short to match her mop
Of short red curls.  Over the years,
Boy-slim Katey's hair has lengthened,
And sun has turned it pale blonde.
Laughing Katey's in college now,
And likes to be fed chocolates in bed.

I'd send you pictures, but my smile's the same,
And empty arms aren't photogenic.
I scan your picture from the fashion ads
As well as the ones you send to me.

Tina's sister was a model already,
A strawberry blonde with a growing portfolio,
Drop-dead gorgeous, cool in public—
But loud and dangerous and needy in private.
Maddy was jealous of Tina's brains,
So even their parents give me credit
For bringing the two of them together.
By loving them both to desperation,
Somehow I made them friends at last.

I've sold my house and stored my stuff
And left to find a town with work.
In a rented flat in another state
I won't see the walls you helped me paint.

Teresa Luisa was born in this country,
But loses her English when she gets excited.
Maddy's friend has rich brown hair
With dark red highlights, a wicked smile,
Full breasts, and perilous lips.
A man could drown himself in her kisses,
And see his whole life pass in her eyes.
Holding hands in sunlit rain,
She wrapped the rainbow around my heart.

Can we love this way forever,
Free of jealousy, free of spite?
Shall we always be friends together
Laughing and crying at all the same things?

Tina's parents think I'm too old,
I haven't been a Catholic for years,
And I certainly can't have both their darlings!
Gina's mother hates my guts,
Because I'm not black and because I'm not Baptist.
Terry's family would like to kill me,
Too old, not Catholic, a gringo besides.
Katey's dad says it's up to Katey,
So we celebrate birthdays at Katey's house.

Or will we drift away in spirit,
As already we have in body?
Waves on the Willamette rise and fall,
Spreading ever farther apart.

Perhaps I should have stood aside
And never kissed a one of them.
Then I wouldn't now be missing
The sight and smell and touch of them.
Or maybe I should have let them move
Into my house, bag and baggage, body and soul,
And fill it to bursting with love and joy.
But I would have had to charge them rent,
And it wasn't money I wanted from them.

Like leaves in the Oregon wind we are scattered,
But fallen leaves can be raked together:
For now this poem is all I can give you,
But I live in hope we will live together.

Sweet-voiced Tina, green-eyed lady,
You are the stars in my darkest night.
Sultry Gina, warm and soft,
Your hair is a blanket against the cold.
Trusting Katey, laughing girl,
You are the sun in the sky of my soul.
Beauteous Maddy, stalking tiger,
You made me love the hunt as your prey.
Bella Terry, mi corazón,
Always and everywhere I think of you.

Though you are going, you say that you love me.
Though I am going, never doubt that I love you.
Wherever we go, wherever we stay,
However long it takes, let us love!

—Eugene, Oregon
7/19/1999 to 8/8/1999
Copyright © 1999 by Green Sky Press.  All rights reserved.  Backgrounds and images are copyright by their respective authors, who retain all rights.