Poem Published in Slippery Elm


Letter to Harper from the Edge of Sixty

Dear Stephanie: Some distances, some lives, can’t be quantified.
Knowing that two-thousand miles separates us offers slim
hope for a quick cup of java at a local cafe, but the gape-mawed
dragons lurking below those map edges are at least discernable,
and their fires have no doubt been doused by the confused oceans
corkscrewing over the rim; I detect steam, but no smoke.
The ruler measures in inches, never minutes, and certainly not in
emotion. Saying I miss you is easy and true, but how do those
words evoke the rocks under the surface? I turn sixty in six
days, and what I wouldn’t give to crumple some of those ancient,
wasted hours and toss them into the burn pile, to watch them rise,
transformed into winged smiles and realized dreams of what never
happened to both of us. We could hold hands and observe the odd
little phoenixes fluttering into the past, where they’d patch damages,
circumvent losses and scour clean those close corners in the lost
rooms where memories go to die. I miss you is shorthand for
the atmosphere is too transparent to conceal my longing, and naps
are a poor substitute for the real thing
. How do we hide what
is evident even to those who don’t know us? I admit failures and
improprieties, and, facing, open-mouthed, what I desire most, hope
to mitigate misbehaving parts and even some misunderstandings.
I am both the man I thought I was and one whose scars remind me
of someone I might have become, if only. The magic eight ball
spins out signs point to yes, no matter the question, so I’ve mastered
the art of cautious phrasing and willful optimism. Two nights ago
we lost ourselves in a dream in Nowhere, Texas, which seems
apt and is hardly a metaphor if past experience indicates anything.
Even GPS couldn’t help us, but frankly I don’t want guidance.
Being lost with you beats the hell out of any other reality, and might
offer us more time together, and I’m already teetering on the losing
side of that equation. I love being your old man, and want nothing
more than to be just that, at noon, on that rickety bench in Nowhere’s
square, guitar in hand, crooning “Wild Thing” and swigging cognac
while ignoring the perplexed onlookers awaiting their court dates.
I’m contemplating these colliding strands of time and cartography,
wishing for a past that never was to ease the burden of this
present. And there’s the future, which bends to no one’s whim and
seems fraught with scaled fire-breathers and sharp-toothed crags.
But we knew that going in, and stepped forward because there is
no other direction. More brave than stupid, ya think? You are
my true north, my everywhen, my night smile and contented belly.
Let’s keep sculpting our day, a piece at a time, chipped here, rounded
there. It’s taking shape, Babe. Love, Bob.



“Letter to Harper from the Edge of Sixty” was a finalist for Slippery Elm’s 2020 Poetry Prize, and was recently published in the 2020 issue, alongside “Answer” by Stephanie L. Harper, also a finalist. Many thanks to the Slippery Elm Literary Journal’s editorial team, and especially EIC Dave Essinger, whose professionalism and personal kindness place SELJ at the top of the ladder in the world of literary journals. If you have a chance, take a look at SLEJ‘s offerings – they’re a print journal – or consider entering their Deanna Tulley Multimedia Prize, now open for submissions.


11 thoughts on “Poem Published in Slippery Elm

  1. This poem makes me so happy and vicariously lovestruck – congratulations to you both and thank you for making the present feel a little less burdensome.


  2. “You are
    my true north, my everywhen, my night smile and contented belly.”

    I cannot find any better analogy for true source and measure of happiness. Always a pleasure reading you, whenever I can!


    Liked by 1 person

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