Pat Phillips West
Bio Note: I move so often even my closest friends ask if I’m in the Witness Protection Program. I refuse to comment, except to say I’m in Olympia, WA, for now. My poems appear in various journals including Haunted Waters Press, San Pedro River Review, and elsewhere. I have received multiple Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominations.
Underside of a Dream
Sunday mornings, I walk the path to the Chinese Garden Lagoon and visit this primordial creature standing at the edge of his world. The Great Blue Heron—symbol of good luck and wisdom according to the Chimacum. Sometimes I come to remember the past, sometimes to talk about the present. Motionless—more pillar than bird— he waits for breakfast to cross his path. I tell him how last night my husband— dead thirty years—came to me in a dream, more a visitation. I felt him weigh down the left side of the bed, press close in the dark, the gentleness in him born of water over stone. A current so hungry surged through me, from skin to marrow, curving around muscles filling hollows that lie beneath the surface. I woke to the scent that lingers in silence. It was a moment I wanted to capture and crawl into. Fighting my way through that crazy hazy cloud between asleep and awake, I dragged myself to the kitchen, stood waiting for coffee to brew, empty cup in hand—a beggar wanting more.
I’m driving to Trader Joe’s early on a rainy Sunday morning when Garth Brooks comes on the radio singing The Dance and I exit the here and now of the highway, travel back into the past where a man walks through the door of Ben’s Coffee Shop just as the waitress asks me, will there be anything else? Stepping out of character I reply, you can bring him over, nodding toward the man. Next thing I know, he slides across the red Naugahyde bench beside me and asks, do you pick up guys often? I almost spit my coffee across the table. There’s barely a breath between us, when a gravitational pull tugs, a sense I already know this man in my bones. Around the curve, the sky brightens like a sign from above. I drive under the arc of a rainbow, sunlight bent in water droplets. Three decades after his death, memories— intimate and constant as my own heartbeat— line the long familiar road. Garth got it right, Holding you, I held everything. Not one part of me, not one muscle, doesn’t still want that man.
Self-Portrait as Yearning
Years ago, I found a book. Inside the back cover, someone had penciled, It’s the having not the keeping that is the treasure. I held those words close, as one after another, my siblings died, each younger than the last. I ached to disappear and find another family— just show up at some stranger’s door, be taken in and live a different life. Impossible. Instead, for decades I waited, certain I’d go next. Now, too old to die young, I lose— phone numbers, money, days and especially parked cars in large multilevel structures. Still stuck in a life I don’t understand or deserve. Evenings when I sit alone in the backyard by the hydrangea bushes, a spot for sipping wine laced with memories that feel like lucky coins I can rub. Memories I wouldn’t trade for a million bucks. A train whistles in the distance. I close my eyes and listen all the voices I ever loved adrift still floating thrum-full of longing falling somewhere between an echo and an answer. Note: ‘It’s the having not the keeping that’s the treasure’ is from Jack Gilbert’s The Lost Hotels of Paris
©2022 Pat Phillips West
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