PATHS THAT CROSS by PATTI SMITH. Poem by Mary Pomfret.
You called me from somewhere in the desert for 88 nights,
When I was living somewhere by the sea.
You told me how when you were young you had been in jail
In California for some minor misdemeanour,
Because you were a poor boy,
And couldn’t pay the fine.
One to tick off the bucket list, I said to you.
Is the slammer ever on anyone’s bucket list? you replied.
Probably not, but one day I will tell you about my prison,
My attempt at a joking riposte.
But I wasn’t joking was I because I had been incarcerated for years,
My own personal Alcatraz.
Freedom came to me with your golden chat and dreamy voice,
Miles away, miles away.
We talked about so many things, you and me,
All the places you had lived and all crazy the things you had done.
When you were twenty you had pulled a motorcycle apart
On the living room floor of your apartment in Signal Hill
And the landlord threw you out.
I believed you when you said at the time you had been surprised
Because the carpet was already worn and stained.
You told me how you lived in the Cross years ago,
And how you made friends with people there.
But after a time you moved on, travelled up to the desert.
But you couldn’t remember why.
It was so easy to talk to you and you seemed to understand when
I told you I couldn’t cry any more, the tears just wouldn’t come.
Don’t worry about it you said, I cry enough for two.
On night 89, I waited for your call, but it didn’t come,
I dialled your number, but the line went dead.
Maybe it was something that I had said.
You taught me many things:
how to make cucumber salad,
how to rewire a car,
how to cook live mussels,
how to put air in a tyre,
why nail polish is an evil thing,
why makeup is a mask,
why an afternoon siesta is an extremely healthy practice,
and why the Rolling Stones is the greatest rock and roll band in the world
how to cook tomatoes.
Now I think of you often, especially whenever I cook tomatoes.
Always add a teaspoon of sugar like you told me, to take away the tang.
Today I added two
And thought of you,
Somewhere in the desert, miles away, miles away.