Poem: The Glow From Either End

Ramble with me through the insecurities of the writer's life.

The Glow From Either End

Two events came together for me tonight
    and I can’t get the juxtaposition
    out of my mind
It’s been circling there, gaining altitude
    in swirling updrafts, fighting my resolve
    to bring it closer, make it land
I should be a little drunk for this,
    it’s really smoky bar-room conversation,
    blurry as the third drink
But we’ll try to make the best of it, you and I,
    because we’re friends
    and we’ll  pass the bottle back and forth

The first was Esther’s slightly blitzed rambling,
    that really wasn’t rambling at all,
    but a truth she held out shakily
More than that, a power of truths about me at least
    and my usually agreeable,
    ometimes disagreeable isolation
She kept asking is anybody hearing this,
    is any of it getting through at all,
    this public display of my life and my art?
Yeah Esther, it gets through to me
    and maybe others here as well,
    but who’s to say how it fits for each of us

The second, a journalist looking for a twenty-minute
    fix on Prague, blathering about whether
    it’s really the Paris of the nineties
Noticed that I didn’t fit the pattern, a gray-haired guy
    among all these young aspiring writers
    and how does that feel?

I mumbled indistinctly about just doing the same thing
    from the other end of life,
    but I gotta tell you it’s uncomfortable,
this question about which end of life I’m living
Something I hadn’t thought about,
    brought up by a stranger and I can’t shake it

Juxtaposition, that’s the point I meant to make,
    a shock to my system these two sides
    of one question all in a night
Esther’s is this getting through to anyone
    thrown up against why are you doing
    this sort of thing at this time in your life
All kinds of flip answers come to mind
    from not self-aware enough in my twenties
    to ‘fuck off stranger, I’m busy’
But the question caught me cold, wouldn’t go away
    and the closest I can come to answering
    is because I am you

I am you with gray hair, as good as the best,
    bad as the worst, wondering if we’re right,
    or need to be, or if it matters anyway
I get owly, just like you do
    when I’m not getting laid enough
    and spend too much time owly,
    chasing fractured chips of thought
I get scared just like you do, about the money
    and sometimes get too isolated, welcoming
    the time alone, but wondering
if someone will come along in time to shove me anything
    that floats, a couple of bucks or a warm smile
    or hands across my back

There was a young woman in the park today, exotically
    beautiful with a wide-brimmed hat,
    shoulder bag and a confident, striding walk
Came right at me across the grass, holding my eyes in hers
    and glad to find me, like a friend she knew
    and wasn’t it grand to see me there
Passed me and sat down, not ten feet away
    to smoke and read
I expected that direct look to ask me if I knew the author,
    would like a cigarette
Too shy to start a conversation, I left, but there was this
    pull not to leave, to know her story,
    that we were lifelong friends, un-introduced

And so, like Esther, I wonder if my life gets through
     to anyone out there, if shyness is the universal thread
    that makes a writer conjure words
So we won’t pass each other in the park, but sit
    and find the pieces of our lives that fit and bind them,
    with no more effort than a printed word
To paint and sculpt and craft a life that satisfies
    a sense of worthiness from either end
    of that burning candle that’s our lives
The flame is just as bright from this end as from that,
    and most of the striving is just the search for a match
    that’s not too damp from sweat
Poetry Collection: Broken Pieces
This poem is included in
Jim Freeman's
poetry collection
available here in print
or as an e-Book
in your favorite formats.