Teri Rosen


I have only an hour.

I'm skipping the conference luncheon
And the keynote speaker
To see you.
Has it been fifteen years?
You look wonderful--unchanged--
Your life here seems to agree with you.

Me, well,
I'm a grandfather now.
And my wife--
We're still in the same house, the one with
The grand piano
That no one plays.

Most days
I see patients at the same old office
And perform what you used to call
My vanishing act:
The fifty-minute session,
And then,
"We have to stop."
The script is unchanged.
On Wednesdays
I volunteer at a clinic.
On Fridays
I take my mother to lunch.

Every moment accounted for.
Everyone wants
Just a few more minutes of me
Than I can give.
Sixty-two years old, and still I must ask permission
To take random breaths.

So as not to go crazy
I manage a few diversions--
Play golf
Play hooky
Evoke sympathy
Harbor fantasies
            in which you sometimes appear.

Thanks for bringing samples of your work.
Can I read some right here?
Can I take the rest
To read on the plane?

I have only an hour.

I'd be flattered if you wrote something
About me, though of course
You'd have to
            change my name
            alter the demographics
            hide me between your lines
Let me know that you still love me
In spite of my neuroses
             or because of them.

You have always seen in me
            the adventurer,
            the epicure,
            the aesthete.
You understand
That I am European at heart.
You are not misled
By the empty pages
Of my expired passport.

I'd like to believe that
One day I will be free
To take care of you.
You need taking care of, you know
I've always thought so.

My god, what if
I don't live long enough?


He crashes our barbecue
like a lion on the hunt
but refuses food.

He climbs onto the picnic bench, sidles next to me,
says he lives here year-round in a house up the road,
unlike the rest of us
summer visitors.

In five minutes flat
he tells me:
he lived in Nigeria for a few years;
he's divorced;
he gave his ex-wife the house;
he once had some poems published, which
I'm sure he thinks will intrigue me
because I'm a writer.
He's right; it does.

He has an art gallery in town
and a son
and a girlfriend in the music business
who's worked with all the Big Names.
He cheated on her when he went to Bangkok,
but then, what man wouldn't? he asks me--
It was Bangkok after all. 

Later, he accepts the dessert I offer,
some swanky s'mores
dipped in raspberry coulis.
Tells me I look amazing
for a woman my age.
Asks questions
far too personal for a first meeting,
which I answer nonetheless.

The next day
On my way out of town
I visit his art gallery, where
he gives me a book of his poems
which he inscribes with
a flirtatious lie:

The sex
was too good
to describe in words
And signs it Love, Tom

I leave
quite certain
that the badinage
was far better than
the sex
would have been.


I'm the oldest person
I've got three decades on the painter/printmaker from Kansas
who has never seen Casablanca.
The singer/songwriter from Long Island
is composing lyrics about the tragedy
of turning thirty.
I told the screenwriter/performance artist from Manhattan
that Langston Hughes was born on this date, and she said,
"Wow, he was a Leo?"

Standing in the kitchen yesterday
I saw a bear through the screen door,
ten feet away,
climbing on recycling bins
munching on an empty plastic jug
acting like he owned the place.
At that precise moment
I couldn't exactly
what we were told about bears
at orientation
However, I swear, you can test me on deer ticks, mosquitoes, snakes, raccoons, bats, and poison ivy.

We cook our own meals.
I appear
to be the only one who doesn't care
whether the tomatoes are organic
or whether the chickens we grill
once led truly blissful, free-range lives.

There's no TV.
The katydids keep me awake at night;
The silence all day makes me jumpy.
I miss the city.
And I really miss Law & Order.

While the others do yoga
at four o'clock
each day,
I check my email and
to make sure the rest of the world
is still there
while I'm here.
Did I mention that
there's no TV?

In the old wood-frame inn where we sleep
everything resonates.
It's like living inside a cello.
I'm pretty sure that
if anyone were having sex
we'd all know.
I confess I'm a little disappointed.
Just my luck
to have found America's only G-rated arts colony.

I've written a short story I like
and my novel is coming along nicely,
so I guess the atmosphere
is good for me
and my muse,
even if both of us have wondered
from time to time
in these three weeks
whether there are writers' retreats,
say, on the Left Bank,
with a couple of noisy bistros nearby.

Teri Rosen
Teri Rosen has been a writer, editor, and teacher of writing for more than twenty-five years. Her work has appeared in a broad range of consumer, scholarly, and professional publications. She currently teaches writing at Hunter College and Fordham University.



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