Bright eyes


My dear, departed friend Mark Enger used to call me Bright Eyes. He was exceptional. Though he has an identical twin, somehow they broke the mold when they made him.

I’ve had some excellent conversations in the past several days, with people who have turned out to be more likeminded than I’d have thought. Among them are the conversations I had yesterday with this guy, who has come so far in the years I’ve known him where letting go of cynicism is concerned, and with whom I spent Saturday afternoon and evening; we were in the west village, which was my home for ten years and is one of my favorite places on earth. We were both so appreciative of the slightly off weather and of the fact that we are in New York. And we talked about love, the importance of it in all its manifestations, how, ultimately, nothing else really matters. It’s not all about romantic love. By that token, you must visit this, a project by a brilliant photographer friend we ran into yesterday. His photos, here, are visual manifestations of the things I try to write about. 

The loneliness I felt last Sunday is, I think, an extension of my addictive personality. I’d become so accustomed to having a fellow in my life that, despite profound evidence that my last two situations were likely going nowhere, I held on as long as I could; at times nothing is more terrifying for me than sitting with uncertainty. And now I can say without a doubt that moving forward from those defeating relationships was the best thing I could have done with them. Wow. How lovely it is to enjoy the silence after so many months+ of the dissonant thrum and shrill banter of misalliance.

The liberty is intoxicating. The future is boundless. 

Though the poem itself is macabre and tragic, and the associations with Play Misty for Me (great movie) chilling, some of the language in Annabel Lee is pure romance. There is one phrase that runs through my mind on a regular basis: “…we love with a love that [is] more than love”. Various iterations of this have become nicknames for my sweet Louie, who is turning 11 next weekend. This boy has been by my side through so much sturm und drang and remains sweet and sensitive and kind; strangers often remark that he looks at me with incredible love. And he does. I know it. It’s not just that my pockets are lined with dog treats …

Alors. I must get ready for the dinner I planned last week because the thought of being unmoored again on a Sunday night seemed unbearable. Actually, I’d be fine, and I have the people who’ve been part of my last several days to appreciate for that.  

I leave you with this, which I am determined to memorize. I’ve got the first few verses down.

Annabel Lee
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we—
Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea—
In her tomb by the sounding sea.
-Edgar Allen Poe

3 thoughts on “Bright eyes

  1. It’s funny that you’re posting this now or that I’m reading it now. I’ve been in my head this afternoon pondering the weather, my emotions, soul, and my thoughts on love and how they’ve changed over the years. Especially odd that you referenced Anna Belle Lee, it was practically my anthem in college. I discovered it when I was at The Citadel of places. I had my first sincere, deep feelings for a girl, she was older than me, Sondra. “Not Sandra, SO-ndra” she would say. I was so insecure that i never was able to bring myself to kiss her. When I finally screwed up my courage enough to breech that foundry she had already moved on and had started dating her 60-something year old professor Clause. I was crushed and ended up sleeping with her roommate. I was so young and had no experience in life. A novice to everything except for perhaps wrestling and shining shoes I suppose. I wrote so much then. All of it pertaining to love, or more to the point, unrequited and lost love. I discovered Poe in my English class and latched on. As difficult as it was to handle I was soothed by the innate comfort that youth provides, that knowledge that you have your whole life still ahead. I still felt a sense of, albeit suppressed, my potential in this world. It was there, quietly lurking, keeping it’s distance, taking me from behind the back corner of Padgett-Thomas Barracks. I could feel it watching me when I’d come back from practice. I’d get the faintest glimpse of it from the corner of my eye. The sun would reflect off the marsh at the bottom of Indian Hill and I’d see it but wasn’t allowed to acknowledge it. Eyes front! 120 paces per minute! Square your corners! Arms 20 inches to the front and to the back! I couldn’t acknowledge it but I’d wink and continue on. It’ll be there for me when I need it. SO-ndra was replaced the following semester by Liza. She was the object of all my boyhood fantasies incarnate. For some reason incomprehensible to me, she fancied me. My family was falling apart and I clung to that fantasy for dear life. I was lost in it. While some of my friends used heroin to dull their pain, I had her. I’m still not convinced she was any less dangerous. My potential slowly lost track of me. It waited for me one night on Longitude Lane, right under the street light in the middle of that misty, cobble stone path but I was busy chasing the dragon on Hassel Street. I knew it was in town but I neglected it. I wouldn’t acknowledge it with my smirking wink to let it know I cared and it wandered off. I went back recently and saw it on Waterfront Park visiting our dolphin friends. I went to catch up to it, but it didn’t recognize me and I was ashamed. It was the same feeling you get when you run into the girl you spent the night with a month earlier. The girl you told you’d call the next day. The girl who is now giving you an awkward smile from across the room to cover up the resentment and disappointment. I waved, put my head down and walked away in both instances. I promised I’d call but I hadn’t and it was almost 20 years later. And just like the girl who I really did like and really did mean to call, I started wondering what could have been. But now, like so many, I’m just trying to get by. Make sense of all those moments I buried in autumn hoping that I’d be able to find them next spring. Those moments that have grown into grotesque oaks before I was able to get back to them. Anna Belle Lee was one of those trees. I loved purely. Long ago. I was addicted to it and then had to kick it cold turkey. Then I had to take love in single serve packets. Just enough to get me through. Sometimes I gorged (and immediately purge) and sometimes I starved, but I would never think about enduring perpetual nourishment. And so it’s so strange to me when I hear of someone write about the fears of being alone when it seems to me it’s all I’ve ever known. I’ve never liked it but I grew accustomed to it. Like eating institutional grits. When it’s forced upon you, you accept it. You go with it. So I sit here now, reading your life, reflecting on my life as I wait to hear from one of my ghosts. One of my last brushes with nourishment. One of the last place I thought I saw my potential looking at me from behind a corner. A time when I remembered Poe and saw myself last.

    • Oh my goodness – honey – this is beautifully written. I love your writing – you get it, and you know yourself in a way that can be grueling at times. So glad you know you can tell me things.

      Always, L

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