The Wasted Years

posted Oct 27, 2009

The wasted years were filled with movies,
dreams about Venice, bread and raspberry jam.
A hundred books that drifted by
like laundry blown loose from the line,
their pages unmarked and remembered
only vaguely. I fell asleep reading. I listened
to Verdi and whole afternoons were gone.
I worked: boxing chocolate, sweeping floors,
asking would you like whipped cream on that?
There were dogs and cats: I looked
into their faces. I thought if I’d been a painter
I would have purpose now: I would paint
saints, I would paint insects, I would paint
the coffee shop filled with ghosts in the morning.
I went to art supply stores and smelled
the charcoal, bought myself thick blank books
that were never filled. My shoes wore out
and I found another pair just the same. My recipe
for peace was a baked pear and my remedy
for sorrow was a smoke. My friends called
at regular intervals and we spoke about the past
as though it were a puzzle we’d yet to solve.
I lay in the sun and didn’t care what happened.
Birdsong poured like sticky liquid from the trees
and stuck one moment to the next, and I felt
my life adhere and slide like syrup as I fell asleep
under the thousand shades of green.

Karin Gottshall's first book, Crocus, won the Poets Out Loud Prize and was published by Fordham University Press in 2007. She has recent work in current or forthcoming issues of The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Gettysburg Review, and Harvard Review. She lives in Middlebury, Vermont, and has taught writing at Interlochen Arts Academy and Middlebury College.