by Steve Gaines

the beginning…
was my first adventure
gone fishing with a home made pole
and a bent pin hook…
in the spring of nineteen thirty-nine

for the first time out on my own
far far away from home…
in the back yard by the little stream
running its way toward tomorrow…..

…after the beginning came the middle
a place to practice the new skills life would invent for me…
…I would invent for life
the comings and goings
the long quiet moments
the fits and stops of a search for things…
banging heads with logic
defying the common sense of all the easy mother’s advice
having an up close look at everything
and riding out the results

it was the sum substance of becoming
who I was to become

I enjoyed the beginning in retrospect
more than being there I think…
since I was… at the time…
too young to understand it
not “knowing what I know now!” about anything at all
waiting unconsciously for the years to pass
to add up to something
and paint me brightly in the thousand colors of experience

but after the beginning it all fell into place nicely
naturally…a comfortable middle
like it was meant to
one merely doing what one was destined to do…
living by all the obvious rules
following the directions
if only just the slightest bit bent off track…
searching out something…or other
…the curious places we don’t remember as intended
the things of life just happening in no particular order…
the wonderful accidents adding up to the myriad mystery
unintentional successes and failures
the bottom line of life….

so after the beginning
and after the “…what everyone else had expected…”
I began to experiment with divergence and other directions
to stretch the middle out somehow…
beyond that tired “expected”
and all the answers exploded in their own thousand colors
and every day became a surprise

it was a predictable experience in time
so many months…years…decades
weighing up that bottom line
to the last ounce
to the grand total matter of doing it…
it was just as I would have had it
a final answer to: “…what would you have done differently?”


the beginning is a distant echo now
almost forgotten
far back along a diminishing life…
just the given misunderstandings of a childhood
viewed from here at the far end of that meandering stream
I had looked to follow in nineteen thirty-nine

the middle though…is still a monument…still a vivid yesterday
an expression of all the chances not taken
and the hopes unfulfilled
an exercise about putting all the exaggerations in order
and lining up the results
like a long list of numbers
like Pi taken to infinity…disappearing over the horizon
stretched out too far in the explaining
to easily expect results from
or comfort in
beyond the simple cosmic truths
too difficult in the proving…
and rhythms we no longer march to

something… other is now upon me…
something suddenly
no matter how slowly it has come about…
that smacks of
…the end

a quieter place
a place for answering the questions asked so long ago
so long ago and quiet in my head now
an open moment to pause in
a large parenthesis
something waiting for me…ill-defined at best
something like a winding down I guess

the end…
not so much defined as an ending…
but rather a cautious look ahead
in the anticipation of my next grand experiment
…all the rest of tomorrow and tomorrow
just the soft attic moments to examine
on those soft autumn tomorrows
rocking away on the front porch

but surely not reasons for “giving up”…yet!
rather a solid cause for continuing
if carrying only the slightest bit of introspection
…little fears for those tomorrow…the odd trepidation
walking in careful steps and quietly humming the denouement…

the actual end put off somehow
over the hill waiting in it’s soft ambient glow
a city in the night up ahead…somewhere…

of course the present its own place
curious and difficult to define in the fluid terms of remembering
like the beginning and the middle…

far removed from the cutting edge now
I am idled in the backwater of some romantic notion of what I was…
re-inventing the pleasures and pasts
like they were meant to be
so long ago contrived
in the simple distortions and re-wording
scattered about in the singing winds of change
strewn over the landscape of the everywhere else
I never intended to travel
gladly brought back to earth unimpressed by the trip
happy in my own inventions
and the reasons I started out with…
never so valid as then…
when they were first invented
in the exuberance of those earliest days
in the back yard
in the dreamed filled young boy setting out to explain
nothing at all in particular

starting the long trip
filling his bag with questions and wonder…