The Smile That Paused Time

Not long ago I shared a poem inspired by the remarkable 2016 concert featuring Amos Lee along with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra (Feeling The Photons).  The evening was a glorious experience and one which did not cease at the end of the performance.  In fact, the experience continues to this day for me.

RC My wife and I were bidding farewell to the friends who had joined us when a mystical moment occurred.  I turned to my friend Rachel and said, “I hope you had a good time.”  Her response paired with a smile to create something extraordinary.  As I looked at her, everything around us fractured and all background crumbled away from view.  There was nothing but her and, most prominently, the smile.  One of the most calm, content feelings I have known washed over me.  The image remains vivid in my mind, yet words to describe the experience are hard to find.  This is the best I can do to convey what occurred to cap off an evening deeply etched in my memory.

She Smiles

What’s On Your Mind, Man?

The time is right to wander into the past and share some older writing. I do not date my poems, but very much remember the moment that inspired this one. It was my first year of grad school, meaning this was written in either 1996 or 1997.

ConversationWhile reading through things written 20 years ago, it has been surprising to see themes repeating in recent writing and in how I currently feel.  An example is my rekindled appreciation of the value in one-to-one, genuine and open conversation between close friends. For me, there is great satisfaction and healing in completely unplanned, unfiltered, vulnerable sharing. It seems I was searching for that when “Bare Souls” was written.  There is also a nod toward the challenge men face with shedding the shield we are taught to carry. The shield we use to hide emotion and our true selves.

The inspiration behind this poem came when I was walking home after working late on campus one evening and passed a ground level apartment with the blinds open wide. This was one of the buildings common around campus where half of the apartment is below street level, making it very easy to gaze downward and see inside.  There were two guys engaged in conversation, and from the brief glance I got of their faces, it seemed they were discussing something rather deep and serious. While many other students were passing time in a completely unmemorable evening at the campus bars, these two were filling the evening with the art of conversation.

The depth of sharing these two were having filled me with envy and made me long for the few times I had such powerful and meaningful conversation with a trusted friend.  Looking back on this poem now gives a feeling of immense gratitude for the group of friends I have today. The friends who are my family – brothers and sisters who are related me to through shared experience and compassion rather than DNA. The people who make me feel fully alive when I sit with them in deep and open conversations – debating, discussing and provoking thought in each other, and most importantly, simply listening.

The two guys I saw for that brief moment all those years ago have surely remained friends, treasuring the connection they have, just as I treasure my family of friends.

The writing here is rather elementary and is not an example of my best work. However, the message within it still resonates with me across 20 years, so it must hold some value.


Bare Souls