Saturday, April 09, 2011

Aubade of the Unfiled Receipts

Every time I walk by the desk where I address my financial duties,
on the way to or from the tall shelf of poetry just beyond, a small
cascade of loose receipts glides off the stack of papers to-be-filed
and falls like big snow to the carpet. A miniature avalanche, a dataslide.
Knocked loose by the breeze of passage, unnoticed while we're nosing out
more interesting reading. The receipts fall slowly, fat flakes rustling
across dried kindling, whisper of paper sliding across itself,
silent in its last resolution on the white rug like a field of late-winter white.

Vacuum abhors a paper avalanche. Have to pick things up by hand,
throw them back on the pile in no order. The file cabinet, gray industrial
enameled steel squatting beside the desk seems lonely. I open its maw so little.
File cabinets appreciate the desire to make order out of chaos. Embody it.
My desks, one in every room, each purposed to unique tasks,
seem to attract disorder, mess, dust, entropy. File cabinets are anentropic.
By organizing these piles of old bills, we slow down the heat death
of the universe. Paper is organized tree pulp, strands of fibrous cellulose
absorbing the ephemeral inks of everything that seems to matter.
Paper trails of relationship, marked with signs that remember who owes what
to who, although rarely why. Actuarial tracks in an open field of flat snow,
white sand, unmarked cotton mats, blind in the hard noon.

I can tell you who you loved by auditing your receipts. Here's one for
dinner and a movie, another for a lapel pin from a state park, one for a visit
to a thrift store marked purely as an "item." You and I were once an item.
Now you're leaving me again. Here, I can track our progress by those visits
across state lines, as though we were parolees who needed receipts for travel.
The condition of a desk reflects the mind of the user, they say. In which case I must
be a mess falling over piles of snow. It's true my heart gets cluttered. But I mostly
don't use this desk; it's just a holding-plane for things I need to put away.
I'd rather take the chequebook to the kitchen counter to write those unpaid bills.
I usually sit at the porch table to fill out applications. Where on hot days, naked
in summer, we served each other breakfast. That long indigo evening,
getting quietly drunk on home-made margaritas, the salt on your skin
sweeter than the salt on my glass, when we played with plastic demons,
silly and sillier. I have the receipts

for the key limes we bought to make a pie, tarter than tart, golden, delicious.
Real key lime pie is dirty yellow, even gold, like sunsets over the Keys.
Only the tourists eat that green crap. I have the receipts
of the shopping spree in town where we came home with bags of books
on psychology, history, sex, and poems. I kept finding books
for you to buy, that you had wanted anyway. You glared at my every archaeology.
I have the receipts for that visit to the Japanese garden high over the valley.
When we got lost in silence under whisper trees, the chaotic world gone distant.
Organization brings an ending. Filing away a kind of killing. I put it off,
not wanting it to end. As long as I don't file you away, I keep us both alive.

I never throw anything away. I have the receipts, somewhere, deep in the pile,
maybe in a box in the basement, for those key lime truffles you served
on your naked flesh for me to devour. A blend of spices and flavors unlike
what most restaurants can imagine. What is it about food and sex, anyway?
I keep all my receipts, against the day I might be audited.
Will they ask me why I saved them, or just how much? I have the receipts
from your bus to the airport, which I picked from your pocket as we hugged
farewell. I save everything of yours. I have all these receipts.

Maybe someday I'll make a bonfire, and burn up every trace of our lives.
Fall of snow leaves off the desk as I pass by.
Remnants I don't try to pick up anymore, a drift of white waves.
Paper trails as memory. More visible than photos.
All that's left of us, when we've said our end togethers.
The file cabinet steels itself against doubt. What I leave unfiled
for now, can be left unfinalized, pretend we're still alive,
an unfiled item holding hands in the last light on the porch
till it's too dark to read these final marks.

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6 Comments:

Blogger David-Glen Smith said...

Wonderful words, strong metaphors.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Thanks.

Who knew finances could be so romantic??? ;)

11:43 AM  
Blogger Gordon Mason said...

Wow, Art! An epic! Fantastic images that keep you reading.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Hi, Gordon, and thanks. Glad the poem worked for you.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

For me the key sentences in this piece were:

      As long as I don't file you away, I keep us both alive.

      I never throw anything away.

This was a surprising touching poem. I also like the idea of a desk in every room, each with its own purpose. We don’t quite have the space for that but we have desks in three rooms; no table in the kitchen though – too long and thin – only counters but I suppose they’re desks of sorts.

2:49 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Thanks. I was smiling a lot towards the end of the poem. If it's not too weird to say, this one surprised me, too, and I also found it touching.

10:24 PM  

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