I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown.
My friend handed me a basket of bread across the restaurant table. We hadn’t seen each other in a year; I was thrilled to be in her company again. Being a decade and half older, she was more like a big sister, a successful installation artist whose intellect and soulful spirit I cherished. I reached for slices of focaccia and noticed a sullen look on her face; she seemed on the brink of tears. I gently inquired. She broke, and with a quivering voice, said: “I’m turning 50 and I am so alone.” It was a declaration that stilled my body and paused my appetite.
A glass of red in hand, she wiped her eyes and told me about her year with a philosophy professor. He dictated her clothes, commanded daily meals, planned their nightly entertainment and trips overseas. There wasn’t room for negotiations. His disapproval of her art projects sent her to the sofa for days, depressed and unworthy. One phone call from him released her from a state of misery. The world, reflected through his eyes, was brighter.
On one hand, she said, it was freeing not to have to think about quotidian matters, but when she narrated her dilemma out loud to her friends, he sounded like a monster. They convinced her to abandon the relationship, and here she was, six months later with me in a restaurant full of remorse.
I felt her pain, having experienced similar regrets and dilemmas. I once entered into a relationship that went longer than it should. I did not want to give up, as I felt previous partners had done with me.
Today’s poem of rhyming couplets speaks a truth about loneliness; the wish for a sustaining love and companionship motivates us to work through our differences sometimes at the expense of our emotional health.
by DéLana R.A. Dameron
I have finally settled in to some semblance of living. Winter’s just to come around the corner—fall apples ripen on the table. Windows shut. I’ve fashioned seals to keep out drafts, but my old skylight rattles when wind sweeps through. The other night I slept without wake—no small victory— my man sleeps like a mountain, a felled tree. Mama called; I answer. She asked around work, school. Am I safe? She’d heard news about shootings. I’m fine, I say. He doesn’t stir. She once claimed I won’t know love. I told her love is learning acceptance: now I can sleep in my bed which I bought hoping to keep another body in. I think maybe time changes you, or else loneliness. This life is like you taught me over the oven, sifting flour through a sieve To loosen it up, you’d say, or to free it as if —well, I’m old enough to understand it better now: we push & press past the hard times. What you showed me then has worked so far: I quarrel. I make up. You’d say life goes ‘till it doesn’t. What is over there, though? I imagine it’s a constant going. Perennial. Leaves are gold. Cold’s growing more unbearable each day. A scarf wrapped around my neck won’t keep me; days I’m trapped inside wishing for sun, for your bright voice again— these silences. I want more than a pen.
“Dear—,” by DéLana R.A. Dameron from WEARY KINGDOM, © 2023 DéLana R.A. Dameron. Published by the University of South Carolina Press. Used by permission of the poet.