Monday, February 04, 2013

The rest is a pop song

. It was obvious to others back then that I found her beautiful, smart & talented & loved her.

The rest is a pop song & I play with the  lyrics., my right as a poet.  

We were small town ambitious. We believed one or the other of us, or both, might become famous.  Although neither of us was a great social butterfly, we were sociable & enjoyed being seen together.

I've always been grateful for her family, her mom especially, how I was taken into that crowded, chaotic house on Hemlock Street during a turbulent period in my own family. I was  "Karen's boyfriend," & with that came meal privileges &  use of the old upright piano.

Karen, of course, always wanted to get out of the house if it wasn't a school night,  or if it was, at least go sit on the front porch or on the back seat of an old but functioning 1948 Desoto, a Battell heirloom called "The Turtle" kept in the garage.  She would be annoyed with  me If I settled on the couch, watching TV with three or four kids crawling over me.  But I felt  love in the chaos, & I sensed the love was emanating from the frazzled woman in the kitchen who welcomed me if I went in there, sat down  & chatted with her.  As long as mom liked  me, I'd be o.k. with her dad &  we'd get a longer leash. I liked talking with her mom.  I suspected  her dad secretly hoped we'd elope the day after Karen graduated high school just to get her out of a crowded house lacking in space &   privacy.

It was my job as a writer to fit Karen into my narrative.  Where I fit into her's was of small concern to me. I hoped only that she carried no hurtful memories, & in our  few conversations  later she never gave the impression she had.. You won't find her in my poems, except invisibly in  a group I wrote in 1990 which drew from every romance  & break up I'd gone through up to that point.

Karen passed at age 62, a tragic fact.  I have only two early years of those 62 & I wish she had lived until my small percentage was much  smaller. But they were two adolescent years filled with the kinds of days & nights everyone remembers as the  rest of our days & nights & years  speed by faster & faster.  My poetry mentor, Joel Oppenheimer, taught by example that there are memories a poet holds in trust.  He was passing down an old tradition.   One might never bring those memories to a poem or story, but they are held & treasured  all the same. It is a privilege.

Remembering how Karen,  the most beautiful teenage girl I every knew, entered   a party, a dance,  a brightly lit diner, a wedding reception (we went to at least two),  my dad's living room,  whatever  occasion called for it.  She always did this if she was wearing something new from Daffy Dan's. She would walk through the entry, quickly survey the occupants, tilt her regal nose up & slightly to one side just so, & pose for a moment.  Yes, people looked. Always.  I'd be standing behind her or off to one side, thinking, "Wow! I'm sure she   rehearses that." To me she was dancing.

In Memory of Karen Battell Silva, 1950-2012

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