A Lifetime Away
She was homely as a buttermilk
biscuit and almost as dry,
but I was drunk, it had been a year,
and I told her I loved her,
complete bullshit that I believed
but she didn’t. And she told me
if I still felt the same tomorrow
I could call, and I pressed my face
against her neck and told her
tomorrow was a lifetime away
and she agreed; that was the point.
Of course, I never called her
the next day or any other day,
and over twenty years have gone by,
but I think of her constantly.
This is my fifth poem about her,
this woman I only met once.
I’m sure she never thinks of me,
didn’t even that next day,
already the memory of me
slipping like hair into a drain.
So who in the end was more callous?
She who wouldn’t give a night
for lack of an eternity?
Or he who gave an eternity
even given the lack of a night?
Pitcher with Lemons and Limes
Long gone is that oil painting
my father painted as a young man.
It was a still life of a pitcher
with lemon and limes.
It made it into a magazine for artists,
an example of excellent use of shadowing.
For years Dad stowed it in his closet
covered in a white cloth.
From time to time, he’d show it off.
It was his Mona Lisa, his Starry Night.
He said I could have it when he died
because he knew I loved it,
but his painting never made it to me.
It’s possible my thoughtless sister,
holding my mother’s stuff
during one of her many moves,
sold it at a garage sale for a buck
or simply tossed it in the trash.
She does things like that.
I remember walking around
the Art Institute in Chicago once,
thinking just one well-placed bomb
and that’s it for American Gothic,
goodbye to O’Keefe’s Red Hills with Flames,
so long to so much of John Singer Sargent.
I suppose there would still be prints,
but this is not the same,
not to someone like me anyway.
It is how it always was and always shall be.
All things are equally priceless
and equally worthless.
JAMES VALVIS has placed poems or stories in Ploughshares, River Styx, Arts & Letters, Southern Indiana Review, Rattle, Natural Bridge, The Sun, and many others. His poetry was featured in Verse Daily. His fiction was chosen for Sundress Best of the Net. His work has also been a recent finalist for the Asimov's Readers' Award. A former US Army soldier, he lives near Seattle.