Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Dark Poet

By Lisabet Sarai

I've written of him before, but never of how we met. I hosted a birthday party for my dear friend Carolyn in my two-room grad school apartment. She brought D, her high school buddy. He brought a bottle of Stolichnaya vodka which he left in my freezer. Was that vodka his strategy for getting together again? Or just mine?

D was younger than I was by three or four years, skinny and unkempt, with shaggy black hair and a drooping pirate mustache. Most assuredly flawed. It didn't matter. I wanted him, not just physically but with my whole being. He talked with his hands, brilliantly, weaving complex spirals of philosophy and nonsense. He wrote poetry and sang the blues. I might find him huddled at my kitchen table at 2 AM, with a cigarette butt smoldering in one of my 5-and-10-cent store saucers, reading or scribbling or simply staring off into space. Beside him I felt shallow and earth-bound, with my conventional hours and my academic discipline. My fleshy curves were a stark contrast to his ascetic, wiry frame. My focused goals seemed almost embarrassing next to his bohemian excursions on the path to truth, beauty and freedom.

Making love with D was awesome but not easy. He acted ashamed of his arousal, as though our animal coupling was somehow unworthy - too common, too gross for people with our level of intellectual and spiritual connection. At times I felt that I'd corrupted him, dragged him from his ethereal mental realms into the mud. Yet the actual experience, when he finally relaxed and gave in to his desire, was pleasure pure enough to take me, at least, to another level of consciousness. Transcendent. Awe-inspiring.

I'm sure that part of my attraction to him was chemical. I remember burying my face in his raggedy bathrobe, breathing in his scent and aching with need. That was later, when I drove two thousand miles to spend New Years with him in the tiny Western college town where he was eking out a living as a waiter. I spent a week in his freezing basement room, using the toilet in the hall. We huddled together under his sleeping bag, all lips and fingers and tangled limbs, his mustache tickling my skin, his funky intoxicating smell making me crazy with want. That visit, overall, did not go well. The more we connected in bed, the higher the walls he built outside of it.

Even later still, he came to live with me in Los Angeles, where I had my first real job. By then the flaws had started to smother the awe. I loved him with all my heart, but we were, perhaps, too different. Ambition had no meaning for him. Sex was some kind of sin against the higher self (though I think his discomfort came from sources other than religion). I was probably too old for him. Certainly, we were at different stages in our lives.

It's ironic that he ended up becoming a lawyer, marrying and having four kids. (I'm not in touch with him, but Carolyn keeps me updated.) Meanwhile, I dropped my original career, flew off to live in a foreign country and started to write seriously.

I've used bits and pieces of D in my writing. The character Rick Martell in Ruby's Rules has a strong physical resemblance, though his personality is completely different. Daniel in Truce of Trust shares both physical and psychological traits with D, although unlike D, he has no conflicts about sex or commitment.

I still remember the shock of attraction, that first night at the party. Even through the haze of desire, I could see that he was far from perfect, but I didn't care.

I wrote a poem for him during that last, difficult period that may sum the relationship better than any prose I can offer now.

After the Fall

I've come to believe

if you lose someone

you'll find them

in LA.

They say

there is magic here -

but all I've found

are expensive sprouts

and cheap neon.

And what an unlikely

setting for you

and I to set up

our dubious housekeeping

(such as it is)

amid the flash

of satin stretch pants

and silver Porches.

A bum and a priestess,

A monk and a barmaid,

Two lovers

of words, two seekers

of truth, two wandering

souls half-chance



for holy


I've lost you

so many times;

our roads

are tortuous,


together awhile

then yours will plunge

out of sight

like some winding

overgrown path

into Panther Hollow -

to struggling emerge

here in this city

of slow poisons

and paper maché.

But stay.


  1. Wow.

    Thank you for this. We're at that time in our lives when these people pop up at us from the past like ghosts. This was very evocative. I really enjoyed it and the poem gave me a feeling of what it might have been like to be you at that age, like a wrinkled poloroid snapshot. The way you describe him reminds me much of myself at that age, except I never knew girls like you. Reading your post made me wish for a while I could be that guy.

    Very good.


  2. I think that we come back to the people who were there when we took our first steps into exploring our sexuality because of the strength of the impression and the lingering affect it has through our lives.

  3. Slow poisons and paper mache, I love that Lisabet.
    I recently had an encounter with a wiry athlete who was consumed by my voluptuousness. He was married, I was separated. Wrong timing, sadly. Thanks for giving me a glimpse into what it might have been like.
    Too funny that ur guy has 4 kidz. Boy how people change, huh? I can't picture u w/four kidz. It just shows how few men are willing to go the hard road with a vixen. Most don't have the confidence for it!

  4. Like it. Cool. Among many other lines, I liked the characterisations, 'A bum and a priestess/ A monk and a barmaid' and the way they show the switchy nature of some relationships.

  5. It's hard not to say Wow to this. Beautifully written and heart touching. Who among us hasn't had a lover we'll remember forever?

    The Poem is fantastic as well...

  6. Wow to you all! Thanks for your comments and compliments. After reading Kathleen's post, I was feeling like mine was rather self-centered and shallow, a kind of nostalgic navel-gazing. I am glad it didn't necessarily strike the rest of you that way.

    Garce - I can't imagine you skinny... Oh, that came out wrong! What I mean is that my mental picture of you is very conditioned by the few photos I've seen, which make you look like a Teddy Bear kind of guy.

    Kathleen - sometimes I feel as though I'm stuck in the past. But then, I don't obsess over it. I do try to use it, to deepen and broaden my stories.

    Mary - I'm hoping that Kathleen and other LA-dwellers are not put off by my characterization of the city. I lived there only two years, a transplant from the east coast, and I think I only saw the surface.

    Fulani - Those two lines are in fact my favorites. They sum up our entire relationship.

    Kaye - Thank you for visiting the Grip! I wonder, sometimes, if he ever remembers me.


  7. What a vivid picture of him, you, the relationship, and all the circumstances, emotions, and insights surrounding it. A masterpiece of a blog post!

  8. Thank you, Jeremy!

    I'm so glad you enjoyed it!


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