For Sharon Spencer
New Year’s Day, 2003
Today I have been thinking a lot of disappointment
of honor and friendship,
of silk scarves and your own soft eyes.
In the photograph above my computer
on the desk that recently came back to me when John
moved into a furnished apartment and gave me everything
that used to be mine before we divorced,
you and I smile outward. I found the photo again when I moved out
of my university office last summer
and placed it on the desk at home.
In this picture, you are turbaned and well.
You’re wearing long beads, and I
am wearing your arm like a favorite shawl.
We were in Cincinnati at a conference where people like us
share common dreams,
the stuff we were made of.
My book about Anais lies on the table before us.
You and Paul and Rochelle and I noticed
how the Miller scholars and the Durrells gathered in the room where
refreshments were served
while those there to talk about Nin were assigned an adjacent space.
It was a minor letdown.
Paul and I discussed the meaning of the phrase “minor writer.”
As in the music of the womb, as in “minor key.”
It was something to celebrate, and honor.
So we all ordered coffee in the shop and wore red to the sessions.
You defended a valiant point passionately during the questions and answers.
Later you told me about your own part of New Jersey.
Day after day lately, I re-read your books, stare at the photo of you on the back cover
of Collage of Dreams,
the one where you could easily be mistaken for Anais.
My thoughts dance around and around
the news of your losing Montclair, the email from Paul
that you and Gunther were gone.
I’ve been thinking a lot about disappointment,
about how it is our teacher, our muse,
how we can still make beauty out of what is stillborn.
The wooden floors shift beneath my bare feet.
I shall emerge from the ether one of these days; I can feel it.
It is your kindness I remember most.