It began as dream.
Flowing downward inside the crowd on the turning stairs
as classes left out in the old college building,
my eyes fell upon her, ahead of me,
and in that special moment on the tenuous stairs
I dreamed I could feel tomorrow.
Outside, although through a sudden fear of the unrequited,
I managed to create engagement,
and, happily, became allowed to walk her home, to her apartment,
down what turned out to be our shared street.
When we stopped before her door,
I forced myself once more through fear,
proposing the chance of our first sharing.
Yet, when “the love of my life” said “no,”
alone I soon stood in the early winter chill
while the lonely sidewalk stretched away,
into its symbolic emptiness.
Later, I walked back from my own apartment
to stare at her second-floor window,
with the darkness it framed for me
as my portrait of the unrequited,
once more to walk away, into the sidewalk’s emptiness.
Yet, what had always saved me
was the wonderful world of the arts.
I knew I was a wordsmith,
and over the weeks I composed my heart in words
to give her, who chose to read it.
Now time has journeyed these fifty years.
Through the glass, slide door of the back yard
and through the fall of light raindrops,
illogically there she is,
her hand happily casting bird seed
into spots in the grass.
Surprised, and returned from another room,
I see that the innocent face
beneath the long-brimmed, straw hat
does not seem to know it is raining.
With a lucid glance at the drops,
of course I know,
but I must know it alone,
for the love of my life is on early miles
of her journey into Alzheimer’s,
beyond the exactness of the day.
Yet, through the illogic
and through the inclemency,
I see only my miracle,
for we live, still, in the house as two,
and there can I see her through the glass, slide door.
So, I pull a cap from the hallway closet,
then go outside, too.
Through grass and birdseed I walk to her side.
Then, although with perspectives not quite the same,
together we share the unknown rain.
The long, mountain byway
now turns through mists of the mind
in what was once its offer of treasure:
with thumb in air,
the wonders of the open road.
I let myself feel the invitation…
then answered yes, I will.
So, I was the wanderer;
I was the vagabond.
I was Jack Kerouac at the edge of the byway,
catching rides with whoever might stop.
The way curved out of sight,
into the unknown,
and time seemed to be free.
Miles curved somehow toward chance,
where, at some special juncture,
anything-could-be might wait.
So, without itinerary,
I followed only invisibility’s beckon,
walking ever more deeply into it,
broken only by the occasional rides,
when disparate faces rose and fell
in brief biographies.
Just once did I take to the open road.
Yet, in that long moment,
even while new breezes blew through my hair
and invisibility called me toward
the exhilaration of the unknown,
I knew it was not I who served
as that special time’s protagonist;
it was the open road.
The city is rising into night.
Inside dark void,
inside the absence of day,
inside the shapeless black,
varied lights of disparate buildings
slowly emerge as luminous art
to electronically paint the night.
It seems a chance of whispered answer
toward the mysteries of life
as it wonders about itself
in the great, vast stillness all around:
an aura of splendor in the vacuous looming.
Small beings walking through shadows on the streets
or lying awake in bed
sense light diminish on their dreams.
But the city is rising into night,
for it has disavowed its disappearance.
As contradiction to the vastness of void,
revolving through the sky’s black hours,
it rides the earth like a colored star—
voiced and breathing,
feeling and wondering—
painting bright wishes through the emptiness.
Tom McFadden met his wife when they were both journalism students at Penn State. They live in Austin, where they have raised three daughters. His writing has appeared in such venues as Paris/Atlantic, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, London Grip, Voices Israel, JAMA, The Seattle Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, The South Carolina Review, The William and Mary Review, and California Quarterly.
Veronica Winters, MFA, is a contemporary Russian-American artist, art instructor, and book author who is nationally recognized for her art instruction books The Colored Pencil Manual and How to Color Like an Artist by Dover Publications. Veronica’s art and writing has been published in numerous magazines and art books, including Strokes of Genius, Leisure Painter, COLORED PENCIL Magazine, The Guide Artists, American Art Collector, and the International Artist. Veronica continues to create art in her Naples, Florida studio.