Sunday, October 23, 2011

Good Life, take 2

When I was young
My neighbor and I
Would build elaborate dollhouses
From shoeboxes
And random objects
Cutting out doorways
And taping rooms together
Each with a separate purpose
Each creating space between
Individual paper dolls
Giving our imaginary friends
Things our families could not afford
The space we did not enjoy
In our rooms with sisters
Who would prefer us
Out from under their feet
Out from following their shadows
Out from stealing
Their favorite blue eyeliner

The paper houses
Became dreams that died
Became dreams that burned away
Became dreams that fell short

The paper dolls
Were replaced by friends in flesh
Were replaced by boys with hands
Were replaced by strength of character

The paper instead
Gave way to written words
Gave way to stories on pages
Gave way to living, breathing thoughts

When I was slightly older
And filled with simple wonder
I tore an article
From a glossy magazine
Of a woman
Who lived in a tiny apartment
Filled with colorful trinkets
Paying cheap rent
To a landlord
In exchange
For yard work
Working in a restaurant
Where she lived
Off free bowls
Of noodles
Wearing chopsticks in her hair
And long, flowing skirts
That kissed the tops
Of her bare feet

She became my icon
Of freedom
Of life well lived
Of shaking off encumbrances

She became my patron saint
Of bohemia
Of creative pursuits
Of sucking the marrow from life

She became my ideal
This model of simplicity
This symbol of satisfaction
This concrete example of serenity

After college, I tried
To craft the image
Of a bohemian life
With thrift store couch
And dollar store dishes
With framed squares
Of calendar art
A vintage chair or two
Some flea market
Accent pieces
All add up
On a credit card
In the budget
Of a social worker
A grad student
With a part-time job
At a CD store
That receives all her so-called
Disposable income

I’ll gladly pay you tomorrow
For some furniture today
For a well-deserved vacation
For dinners out with friends

I’ll gladly pay you tomorrow
For a car that runs
And clothes that flatter
And foods that comfort

I’ll gladly pay you tomorrow
Because it was on sale
Because I deserve it
Because this chance won’t come again

The problem
With living in community
Is other people
And yourself
Other than that
The concept is great
Shared resources
And relationships
And burdens
Or multiplied
However you look at it
When your life decisions
Affect mine
Our intertwined lives
Become a timebomb
Waiting to explode
From the weight
We rest
Upon them

Love your neighbor
For richer
In good times
In health

Love your enemy
For poorer
In bad times
In sickness

Love one another
As you are
In reality
Not in your wish dreams

I came back home
To release some burdens
Of debt
And expectations
On myself
And others
Some of whom I’ve known
Some of whom I’ve yet to meet
To reorient myself
To the woman
With chopsticks in her hair
Who preferred
A third floor walkup
Filled with found objects
And eating ramen noodles
She swore as a child
She would never
Force herself to eat

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