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Here you will find the writings of the poet Theodore Waterfield

Standing in Line

Where do all these people go?
I stand in line buying groceries
and watch a world full of people.
There are so many,
yet I feel an empty heart,
as if the last package
had been taken off the shelf
and there’s nothing more to buy.
It’s a mood and it will pass.
I will go about my business,
but the faces arrest my attention.
Who would I like to know?
Who would I avoid?
Why do I ignore some and not others?

Yet I enjoy being with them.
I enjoy the bustle,
the small theater,
the heart wrench of a child’s stare,
the affectation of a nose ring,
floppy pants,
women with strange hair,
and the unusual,
a totally natural face
gone to seed like a garden.

I believe there is a hidden language
between all of us.
In our separate places,
there is one place,
one heart beating in unison,
trying to find its way,
looking for beauty,
a little love,
more light.
So I stop judging.
I pay the clerk
and leave the store
with something following me,
it says with an inaudible kindness,
you are not alone!


said the street,
with its dirty bungalows,
its houses,
all built to resemble nothing,
a conspiracy of ugliness,
of wasted energy,
indifference to beauty or kindness.
said the street,
no one lives here.
The old woman went away,
her children scattered to different seasons.
One died in winter,
the others followed the ridge tops
of worn out mountains.

Why do you come back to see me?
I have nothing to give you.
These houses grew one by one
and drove away their dreams.
But you were full of dreams.
You played in stardust,
tasted roses,
blamed no one,
and now a part of you breaks,
seeing me for the first time.
I am the street of your wagons,
your kites,
the tufa stone of your garden.

What is it you want, old man?
I loved the child in you.
It is still there.
Give me time, and another like you
will come along,
between ice ages.
But now is not the time
to collect the things
you lost in leaving.
Come back when the perch bite,
and the boats edge into the Bay,
and the woman returns as a girl,
looking for you on my crowded sidewalks.

Lost and Found

I thought I would never
find my way back.
A shell on the beach,
a piece of lint looking for its loom.
I thought I was lost,
put to sea on an oarless boat,
uprooted like an old tree,
never meant to be moved.
The road paved and straight,
destiny woven into destiny,
like time measured on a clock,
certain and pure,
and then…

Fate with its wide smile,
its infinitesimal grin,
the imp that washes our footprints away,
said, “Ted, it is time
to go into the open door of an abyss.
To ascend to the sky without wings,
to walk on the firmlessness of the air,
to know there is no road
that does not end,
no time that does not stop,
no light that does not leave darkness,
no soul that does not know its end
as well as its beginning.

So I was cast adrift,
without job,
without friends,
without the child
whose life shone like a shield,
that my hands must reach into the sea,
and feel the tide rise with a day,
and life must start over
moment to moment,
smile to smile,
taking root where it can.

Memory Day

I went back once
to that place of solitary stones.
It is a city of little boxes and violets.
Cars wind in and out of gravel lanes,
and always
there is a mound of flowers,
gladiolus, lilies, roses.
It is a smell too sweet to be pleasant.
An omen of someone’s leaving.
A mystery without inscription.
A stone will be raised later,
and someone will carry a single flower,
or a cloth of tears,
and stop for a moment
to listen to the traffic from the road.

But that will come later,
perhaps years,
perhaps never.
No one comes for pleasure.
No one comes for silence.
It is a city without noise.
The sound of the world outside
is the light above a tree,
a touch of fading warmth,
a memory stopped by time,
a piece of the heart forever severed.

I read the inscription on the stone
by her grave.
I’ve forgotten what it said,
something that tried to appease our grief,
chase away the fog.
I wonder why we do this to ourselves?
Build a sarcophagus of grief.
Put wrought iron fences around graveyards.
Pretend we have no guilt for dying.

She is a hurt wind,
a broken laugh,
a barren feather,
put here as if her soul
is now a box of decayed ash,
her memory,
the heavy odor of death.
Let’s dig all these places up!
Let’s scatter the stones.
Let’s go to the top of a hill
and look into the distance,
and say,
that is where they went,
faster than light,
alive and well,
into the future,
into forever,
without pain,

The Work

We lay our backs
into the burdens of our lives.
Where is the face
we held in our hands?
Where is its hope and innocence?
Do we succumb under the waves
wide-eyed and frightened
doing our duty,
earning our bread?
listening until the concerto stops,
the poem trails off,
the picture lays on the ground,
the lines stopping with half a face,
a building without windows.

Is that how it happens
when we take up the yoke,
earn our bread,
trade the heavens for walls,
infinity for time,
legends for gossip?
Earning a living by an empty harbor,
pushing the canoe into the water,
telling ourselves,
we will be back with baskets of floors,
books full of poems,
pomegranates of red,
stones picked up like agates
on a beach,
covered with jade.

We will return,
after the hours, and toil,
and fields cut and plowed,
and stock market tallies,
and promotions,
and pulling in fish,
to the forever place we all live in,
the innocence of our hearts,
the tremor of our hands,
molding all the while we worked,
a soul for ourselves,
not what we think,
but a child whose eyes looked at us,
from under the waves.

Did You Pass By?

I envy those who do not regret
their sorrows.
Who give away their happiness.
It has never been so with me.
The cloth of a day follows me,
folds its strands about my heart,
and never leaves.
So it was I loved you,
and you never left.

I have not seen you pass in years.
I do not know how clear your eyes remain.
The dawns that filled them
with red dust,
and washed them
with blue oceans.
I do not know if your hands
touch your window,
and you ask, does he pass?
Do you ask?
Have you looked for me?

Did you pass my house
and wonder,
is he still inside?
Does he go down to the bay?
Did he forget to grow up?
Does he play along the bank
and gather green glass?
Does he still love me?
Does he cry like a boy
and go off running?

I hear you as if you are asking me
those things.
Those touches that we give
within our hands,
that we hid from others.
I never stop hoping as I pass,
are you there?
Do you see me?
Do you know I never forget?
I never lose anything.
I never stop asking,
does she live there,
the girl who loved me as a boy?

If Someone Could Explain

Where did you go
that I followed through a house
of endless lives?
How could I know you?
How did you expect me to?
What is hidden behind a door,
a night deeper than darkness?
What could I know of you
in the cellar of life?
And why does one so beautiful
Show up with a longing
to have me know,
I knew you once,
many times?

And where, dear phantom, does that leave me,
toiling through the fragments of a dream,
as one who comes on an unsigned journal
that tells a story only to itself.
But I wept as I read it,
I cried because I am not sentimental.
Because lost things are truly lost,
and it is more pain that I can bear,
but there it is,
truth spread out on a page
of lost selves,
a lost life I might have known,
and who took it from me?
Or did I leave her, and
see her full of loneliness,
and pay a price for some crime
I’ve forgotten.

April Day

Sky comes down,
not blue,
but gray,
without zenith
or immensity.
The sky comes down
to the grass and me.
Through the knitting
of new leaves,
tidewater green,
so still,
dreams have wings,
thoughts can fly.

All with all,
things touch each other,
millennial stone,
ephemeral flower.
Earth, love,
life song and poem,
so still,
sky inside the soul,
just you,
just me,
and spring at dawn.

Dead Flies

Where the sun never rises,
above my bed.
Chandelier sun.
Sky without clouds.
Below an incandescent star
is opalescent glass
through which the light comes,
and there,
I see the crypt of flies,
invisible until the light goes on.

Small, black bodies desiccated,
unnoticed until the gray twilight
of rain outside
causes the attention of the mind
to linger,
to see a place among places,
where things pause
and never wake.
Where flies rested for the night
and I see their dark end.

So I rise, not a fly,
but no less immune to fate.
We sleep, and sleep gone by,
we end.
Flies in a crypt of light,
a moment, and then wiped away.


If you ask what I believe,
I would reply,
none of what you believe,
and much more.
Because I’ve taken all my doors
off the hinges.
I have collected the world’s truths,
and lies, and whims in great boxes,
more than I can absorb at one time.
Every person leaves a deposit,
old pots, new tunes, longings,
lace for a table, a doll, a ball,
and I put it in my boxes.
Sometimes, one to a person,
sometimes a bag,
seldom a truck,
but I’m open and I collect their beliefs,
if for no reason than they are beautiful
to me, important.
Like a fire crackling with wood,
seasoned in its life,
full of salt and spices and mold,
and unless you include them all,
their picture is not complete.

Their mournings remain a mystery,
their tears simply water
dissolving in the air.
So if you ask what I believe,
that’s my problem.
I have no boxes.
Life comes like a torrent,
full of sunshine and rocks
that pile along the edges of myself,
here a place to stand,
marsh and grass, and lobelia
blue as eyes.
There a pile of granite stones,
firm and forthright and eternal,
and places where the trees themselves
fall in my river,
no moorings,
given to flood and quick storms.

And in my lifetime,
there will be no time for me
to know anything in its final truth,
to construct a house of ritual and shadow,
to bow my head or wave a flag.
I’m in the collecting stage.
There’s no time for the geology
of creating mountains,
something permanent and forever,
except I’ll sit on those owned by others,
and read their books before a flame,
casting each page to the fire,
as I learn who they are,
and what they believe.
Until sunset.
Until I am gone.