29 September 2015

untitled poem VI

He looked at me with a gaze approaching pity when he realized I had never heard of the band playing on the computer, my computer, which he was there to fix.

Jeans tighter than any Christina Z wore when I made out with her in eighth grade, though his figure was about the same as hers was then.

And a beard, worn as if meant to prove something to someone.

Every word was quick, every other patronizing.  I’m nearly old enough to be his father.  He makes twice what I do, a fact we both know.

I held my tongue through his unsubtle registration of superiority.

I wanted to tell him that I have been around the world; that I have eaten caviar with poor Siberians and shat in Guatemalan bushes and walked drunk on Dublin streets.   I wanted to tell him that I am friends with poets and philosophers; that my young children speak ill of the bourgeoisie; that my wife corrects the subtitles in Mandarin films we watch.  I wanted to tell him these things.

But I looked at the frayed ends of my WalMart pants legs, and remembered the four kids I have to feed, and considered the futility of words, especially these days.  

He continued, “oh, next time just click right here,” and “I’m not sure you are supposed to have access to that,” and “do you have much experience with our L Drive?”

With that, I finally broke.

“I can sit still longer than you.”


“I can sit still longer than you.”

“I’m here to fix your computer.”

“I know, but I can sit still longer than you.”

“Okay, but I’m here to get you back into Insight soooo you can do your job.”

“Yes.  I don’t think you understand.  You sit most of the day in front of screens.  But I can sit still with no screens, for longer than you.  Much longer.”

“Are you okay?”

“The older I get the harder it is to answer that question according to protocol.”

“Uhm, okay, well I'm just about done here and you should be able to get back to work.”


He did more clicks.

I thought of those summer nights, when dad was in seminary, and I would cut some of the yard and dad most of it, and after we would lay on shorn grass and look up at the sky.  He would be silent.  I would interrupt with questions. 

I thought of West Virginia deer stands with Jerry, deer piss scent poured all over us, saying nothing, the only movement between us the rising and falling of our chests, listening to the wind.

The sitting along the Minnesota River in winter.  I would make the sign of the cross on my forehead with drops of water that fell on me from snow weighted branches.

I thought of the pine root that created a hillside seat in Ellsworth, Maine, white clapboard church behind me, a short walk from the shelter, eagles in the air, where I tried to pray, but usually just sat.

The late afternoons, after a shift in a Memphis furnace, sitting on the concrete by the bay door, staring at crape myrtle across the street, wondering if I had the energy to drive home.

The thousands of hours with babies asleep in my arms, the most demanding quiet and stillness.

The storm I pulled over to watch last week. 

Today, on a bench in a grove at work, listening to kids play in the new playground.

Those I have watched come into the world, and those I have watched leave it.

He finished his assignment, giving me banal orders about what not to do next time.  He left.

I returned to my vacated chair.  I turned it toward the window.  Geese were marching in non-formation through the grounds, rings of red mulch were now worn by the trunks of the oak trees in the quad, the squirrels were busy in their northern frantic way, the sky was turning.  The window was cracked just enough to hear the wind begin to be restless. 


  1. I want to return the favor for the enjoyment I get from your writing Owen, but I can't think how except to say so.

  2. Someday that young man may also be older. I seriously doubt him memories will be anything as varied or as insightful as the ones you have so beautifully expressed. Poor lad! But you were young once and have matured into a sensitive, observant man so maybe there is hope for him!

  3. I love this.
    My computer guy is not quite the opposite to yours, but he is fascinating in his varied interests, projects and experience -- he's starting a restaurant in addition to being a Yelp 5-star computer repair businessman -- and also so kind and respectful and interested in what I have to say about things. Today he saw the photo of koliva on my desktop, a picture of what I made for my husband's 40th day, and he wanted to know all about it. I wish you lived in his territory! But then you wouldn't have such good poem material.

  4. Hi Owen,
    I just wanted to let you know that I loved this and part of why I loved this is because I used to tease Father Matthew for years before he died: "you aren't a genius... you are just really, really good at sitting still!"
    If "fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," learning to sit still is its middle. --Pres Katie Baker

    1. Ha! Thank you for sharing that.