James H Duncan

Surrender


waiting in her bedroom,
cast in gypsy red,
silk thrown over bedside lamps
and a gallery of photographs
staring back from her walls,
I think about my place in all this
warm history and fleeting
summer love

the ladder grips the window ledge
and we crawl straight into darkness
to escape her mother, her father,
all those photographs of her smiling
face with boys and men I don’t know

I don’t want to be just another
photograph on her wall

driving through the summer night
with her bare feet on the dash,
she smokes and fills the dark with stars
all her own, named one after the other
as the edge of town comes into sight

never turn this car around, she says,
just keep going and let’s see what happens

but we don’t, we never escape,
there’s a current of fear running down
there beneath all our hopes and dreams,
a fear we hide in layers of neon,
hide behind curtains of whiskey a-go-go,
dancing and singing in every bar we find,
jukebox red, moonlight white,
wanting the night to last for so long
that the sun never comes back ‘round again,
our wild racing hearts
breaking behind dark eyes
as we hold tight to song after song,
believing in something bigger
than either of us

but it’s a restless sort of love, stupid eighteen
thinking we’re thirty, and we know when the time comes
it’s gonna fall hard, almost as if we tried
to break it apart ourselves, on purpose, we can
see it in each other when we ask, “do you want
one more drink? one more dance?”
just the faintest shadow
of a doubt in the corner of my eyes,
the way her smile hangs just
a little awkward across the blue Sunday
neon glow of her face fading from my mind
all these years later

I remember saying I’d come running to her
any time she called, but the day came
when she didn’t, the phone at home stubborn
and silent then thrown against the wall, and even
the phone in the back of the bar stared back
with nothing to say as I drank alone
through too much nothingness
until it was time to move on

I let it all go and moved to the next
city, world, one-story town where it was all
the same hell, just with a different name

the moon follows you wherever you go,
that’s Luna’s curse I suppose, her name
rattling like ice in the bottom of the glass
still smelling of whiskey, and somehow still
smelling of her perfume, a scent caught
between two worlds as I put more
highway miles and more love and aimless jobs
between us, subway commutes and trains,
spreadsheets and doctor bills, and sometimes
I find myself standing on the sidewalk
of Union Square or Park Ave and it’s like waking
up from some daydream, catching her
face in the crowd, her red hair in the wind,
…but no

it will never be her again,
you only get one,
and once that change of heart hits home
there’s no going back, only moving on,
forcing yourself to climb that hill alone,
telling yourself it’s alright to feel how
you feel, it’s human, heaven, and hell
a highway companion we all
have to accept as we head straight
into the dark of the sun
and surrender ourselves to the
mystery of love

   


For more by James, visit www.jameshduncan.com.


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