for Stephen Edward Poe

It’s the hat — black leather
shading salty beard, sapphire eyes,
wicked grin — that rises first
in memory. The hat
defied convention, said I am
my own…and a little bit bad.

It’s the bike…the idea of the bike.
I was 24 and you near 50,
too old for me, too old
to 20-something eyes for
motorcycles. But the image
lingers sweet and sharp
as dark ground coffee,
as proof that sex matures.

It’s the voice.
The first time my brother heard it
his teenage jaw hit tile
as he announced,
“There’s a man on the phone!”
Rough and tender, rumbling like
a herd of horses bearing flowers,
hoof beats drumming prayers
for risk, courage, truth.

I wanted to grow up to be you.

It’s the leap
from fresh-cut girls
to rooted woman, one with soil
and boundaries, offshoots and
imperfections. A promise
that the heart can learn at any age.

It’s the trade of bike and helmet
for cell phone and truck,
of every freeway for one road home
without loss of style or wit or wicked
grin. A secret: you can till the soil and
not be buried by it; no fruit
tastes so sweet as when you grow your own.

It’s the picture — two souls walking
naked toward each other. You
offered it as wisdom, hope and mercy.
A talisman for patience, for trusting
in the mirrored heart.

I wanted to grow up to be you.

And it’s the fight, clear-eyed
through the looking glass
as red queen battled white and
lost. You never dropped your eyes
or looked away or told the story different.

and that grin,
sunshine, bonfire, silent kiss
crossed miles and phone lines,
burns on my inner eye till,
like the Cheshire Cat,
it is the comfort that remains…

and still
and still I want to grow and be you.

© Deborah Edler Brown, 2000

First published in “Radius) From the Center to the Edge”