While in a moment of reverie
I began to trace when I’d lived alone.
A couple of times, I lived in a room by myself.
Once was a-way back in early college days.
I wasn’t all alone, though.
There were other girls in the house
Inhabiting their single rooms.
Later, where I worked, there was Staff Housing.
But that wasn’t all alone either,
Again, each person had a single room.
Just a place where it was singular living.
So…when have I lived alone?
As my reverie continued, I had to ask myself,
“What does ‘living alone’ mean to me?”
Is it when the place you live in
Is not shared with another living thing, or
Another human being in a caring, loving relationship?
Or living with that singular sense of aloneness inside,
Even when other life forms are around you?”
I had to answer, “All of the above.”
My times of living alone have to include
Many of the years of my thirty-two year marriage.
Living alone came gradually as the caring,
Loving relationship was disintegrating.
When living together turns into being single together,
There is an aloneness of a singular experience.
I began to experience more about living alone
When I “house sat” my brother’s home in another city.
Even having some familiarity with where I was
Did not take care of me as much as I needed.
Finding my way outside of that which I knew,
Having to take care of the details of a car accident,
All contributed to creating a nightmarish experience.
Then came that which I call really living alone.
The house in which I lived no longer resounded
With the sounds of family living.
No longer any children’s records’ sounds
From the stereo in the living room.
My piano in the cellar was silent.
Since the players had moved away.
The laughter and arguments were gone, too.
But I was still asking,
“Was I living alone now?”
The players of the piano would come back now and then.
And they’d bring their little ones to play
The children’s records on the stereo in the living room.
They will come for Holiday get-togethers, and
Of course they will come spend Mother’s Day with me.
Wouldn’t they now?
And in between they will telephone
Just to ask how I’m doing
And to tell me their latest news.
Sure, they will, won’t they?
After my youngest telephoned in the afternoon,
My question was still with me.
“Hi, Mom. Could you take care of the boys for me while I go—–
You don’t sound too good. Are you alright?
I hate to ask, we haven’t been over for a while.
It will be a chance to spend some time with your grandsons.
We love you. The boys miss you.”
When their visit ended, living alone felt palpable.
Next I call the second to be born to me,
Greeting her cheerfully. “Hi, how are you?”
“Tired. I’m working pretty hard at my job.
I don’t have time for anything.
Oh, I went out with the girls last Saturday.
And, Oh ya, I am going on a Benefit walk next Sunday.
Outside of that I don’t have much time for myself.
Have you heard from my sister lately?
I don’t know what her problem is.”
Her question hangs in space, unanswered,
While I called another to let him know I’m alive.
“Hello? Is ‘at you? This is me. How you doing?
Haven’t heard from you for an awful long time.
I’m just around the corner,” I reminded him.
“Ya, I know. You just woke me up.
I started work at 5 a. m. this morning
And I didn’t get home until ten last night.
Talk to you some other time.”
As I say “Good bye”, I remember,
My first born walked away from his family
Years ago and had not returned.
Longing to have him home again
Floods my heart as time passes on
While my life has answered my question.
© 1992 Eleanor F. (nee Johansson) Gamarsh is a mother, crafter, writer and multi-media artist. She lives with her husband Fred in Gardner, Massachusetts. She participates in GALA’s Open Mic Poetry Readings, exhibits her art, and has contributed poetry to a published book Inspirations and Expressions 2012. Her poems have appeared in her local newspaper, the Gardner News, and her essay “On Mother’s Day Gifts” was featured on the front page in May, 2016.
Uncle Mortimer had a theory there’s nothing sacred
which he set out to prove.
Ate his way like a weevil
through family business law church the Masons and three
wives before I got to know him.
I don’t trust you
Uncle Mortimer I said and he said I had good reason,
laughing and returning my pewter ashtray from
his pocket to the table. Don’t turn your back he said
I like you.
Then get your hand out of my crotch I said,
Is nothing sacred?
I suppose that you’re inviolate?
Very nearly I said at least selective.
Uncle Mortimer philosophically are all
subjective you show me any real reason to
refrain from anything or for that matter to
do anything I’ll show you a game the rules
like fences in your head Blake’s mind-forged manacles
he said blowing his nose on a flag he carried for that
I couldn’t live without those fences I told him.
More likely you couldn’t die I have nothing to die for.
People are always making contracts you poets for instance
twist everything you want to say to make it fit
some arbitrary form people are always building
altars to sacrifice their Isaacs on people
are always organizing clubs to keep other
people out of always drawing boundaries
saying MINE well property is theft if you
really want to end war crime racism injustice
just remember one man’s sacred cow is another’s
It won’t work I said.
Well you just tell me
What does? You think if we just keep on pulling up
and putting in fences we’ll finally get it right?
what about your theory nothing’s sacred? I
What about it?
I mean suppose it’s wrong
suppose I went over to that bureau drawer and pulled
out something sacred and you saw it and knew right then
it really was?
He watched me warily.
I said I wouldn’t I don’t trust you and besides
the bureau drawer’s not where I keep it but suppose.
You’re lying! he screamed
and clutched his sacred theory close.
I don’t trust you! he screamed
and fled into the night.
[Judson Jerome was an internationally-renown poet whose work was featured in many literary journals at home and abroad. For years, he wrote a column on poetry for Writer’s Digest. In 1973, he retired to live with his family in a rural commune, from which he continued to be involved in free-lance writing, speaking and publishing through Trunk Press. Jerome died in 1991. The featured poem in the public domain, is published with Jerome’s permission, May 1977.]