Colluding With Tisa

Occasionally something impels me to puzzle through some enigma enclosed within a vignette from my youth, and invariably I turn to writing as the method. But once I start to immerse, I lose some control and it becomes more like managing a kite in a gale than steering a ship into the memory banks.


think I saw her 4 times
very first time, I kissed her mouth
completely unlike me

she’d sent me a note
liked my verses
she’d sent me a note
where to meet and when
broad daylight
side street, row house
memorized the number
heartbeat distracting
they eyed me at the door
hippie romantic intellectual
her eyes said yes
black girl gorgeous young
had no idea
mom’s eyes said just a wise smile
dad in the navy, away
her living room sofa
mother chaperoning
discreetly in the kitchen
a lemonade gift
just 16
me a sophomore
but she was precocious as hell
knew all about costumery
drawings and photos
of women’s dresses 80 years ago
good at conversation
baby sister named Leah, 1
god her eyes and mouth
meticulously dressed
creamy ample bosom
politely! politely…
and what was I studying
mish-mash, genetics
some French, some writing, math
‘you’re a very good writer’
‘even mother thinks so’
blush – quickly re-messaged
I don’t get their culture maybe
still I like it
I like it
I like her sitting next to me
the way her hand turns a page
I like the parlor
the furnishing, the cleanliness
the simple pride, the dignity
her accent, well-spoken
half an hour departs
soon one of us must go
quick meet n greet this sitdown
to see if more follows?
she rises, such grace
mother heads upstairs
allows us goodbye space
she stands there perfect
like a sales rep
for the biological function
and some power floods over me
I go right up and kiss her
swear it wasn’t me
mouth lips fragrant soft
accepting, sensing
hands round her back
brief but real pheremones
I feel me returning
heat levels normalizing
enchanté de faire
votre connaissance
memorizing her eyes
nice to meet you called upstairs
outside porch
oxygen, turning away
sky where the feet should go


coming days and weeks
university girls all around me
but thinking of her
what was the taste like again?
had no photo
but had imagination
by the boatload
summer came
out of town for months
though we exchanged each one letter
I went with humor
she went with her thoughts
young ladies are earnest that way
in the autumn met again
large park by the cathedral
i had an auto this time
she walked from her house
maybe three blocks
colored leaves some up high
some making blankets on the hills
parked by a nice meadow
walked through the leaves
beautiful sound
it felt proper to give my hand
no wait – that thought was rational
just before it, the truth
I wanted her hand
completely unlike me
we walked so slow
her pace
taking in the beauty
how the season smelled
she here with a white boy
so warm in our bubble
and a little rascally
not the usual thing done
upscale park in the 70s
but we were young
still anonymous
maybe I hoped
passing the slippery parts
I still kept her hand
treasure for my daring
you know nothing, white boy
silent quiet walking
just a word now and then
and we didn’t seem to mind
this was bandwidth enough
all channels flooded
simple no-word broadcast
back to my car
she had to go soon
with her always time moves
a stolen hour somehow
almost back to the church
she asks me/tells me
pull over, stop here
obedient, I look faceward
a kiss she initiates
comes in close
pressed near, then a hand
warming my wrist
then mouth, lips and tongue
huntress, me hunted
still mostly silent
she’s probing I think
but also thinking
is this girl too young
but also thinking
nice kiss, nice nice kiss
politely! politely…
two minutes
she withdraws gracefully
now you may convey me home
and we depart as mysteriously
as the first time


months go by
another girlfriend
a ‘real’ one this time
in my real life
first real girlfriend
as I see it
lovemaking, eating
constantly vying
with studying and classes
still a letter
every three months or so
she wants to go to art school
she’s getting weary of the city
at least this city
no culture
I tell her about Russian
my new fascination
and maybe about Yeats
but not about girlfriend
our third meeting comes
with the blossoms of springtime
we meet in the plaza
now almost empty of students
walk to the library
romantic – you had to be there
meandering thru stacks
talking hush hush
so we had to stand closer
pointing out found tomes
wanted to mate with her
leaning her up
against Mongolian grammar
Dewey decimal 438.15
my inner Genghis
but politely! politely…
hours spent this time
flirting and playing
touching hands now and again
but nothing more
our longest date
was just for talking


still had the girlfriend
she was good
but crazy
libido like chipmunks
scurrying for acorns, 5th gear
when she was with me
I was the only only
but not when she wasn’t
Christ, she knew how to do
letters less frequent now
my poems went elsewhere
maybe a year passes or more
I had sent her stream of conscious stuff
invited her to a Shakespeare
but she demurred
not clear why
then finally an invite
could we meet soon
mother away for the weekend!
she had to babysit Leah
that was too scary
I had a thing going on
crazy thing was
girlfriend #1 said do it
I’m not cut out for this
too refined or something
her bedroom
seemed like Shambhala
in my sweet imagination
but something inside me
judged before feeling
stupid white boy
I get a letter weeks later
you think I’m an “Island Girl”
had to research this one
probe for her meaning
Elton John song
had to listen
actually listen to the lyrics
is that what she thinks?
are all women crazy?
sun moves round the zodiac
then one last letter comes
can we meet soon, a Saturday?
I was travelling often
nowadays to Philly
set it up on the way back
after a two hour drive
stopped on her block
parked per instructions
maybe six doors from her home
pouring pouring rain
what was she, 18, 19 now?
window knock
stylish umbrella
let her in quick
grabbed a towel from the back
her hair and face look good wet
what’s up
how’s life
that same familiar unfamiliarity
we talk a little
pouring loud on the rooftop
like lullabies
so hard no visibility
private silent chamber
secreted in the chaos
in the midst of the grey city
her eyes always calculating
a quicker kiss this time
she’s the one driving
but she doesn’t pull away
less romantic than before
but she doesn’t pull away
I’m not exactly polite
somewhere in between, curious
I caress her neck
something I always wished
her hand plays over my thigh
over my constant bluejeans
I like the colors
brown on blue
but surprised
it’s not romantic
more like a mission
more like technique
I kiss the side of her head her hair
smelling her, looking for her ear
that was her signal I guess
target acquired, locking in
her hands small but deft
opening my zipper
percussive thunder
cannot even see the next car
her hand is inside
as though watching a movie
I glance down a detached instant
black underwear parting
(not true what they think
that men just want orgasms)
girl’s hand on boy’s root
not her first time
fingering the cowl
extending the shaft
chalicing the orbs
her palm their cup
fingering the cowl
slight subtle tug
purple soon purple
delerious rain beating
she assesses me ready
now head down in my lap
like a stranger
her warm mouth on me
what I so used to want to kiss
for half an hour straight
sucking instead her desire
or her mission
she knows how
she knows
explodes the volcano
my perceiving is off kilter
under these circumstances
hard to take in
the few seconds more
her sweet clinical head
resting in my pillow
she’s soon up
very politely half re-zipping me
tucking me in
we wait
since I don’t yet quite fit
I want to research her nipples
I want to travel her mouth
to taste me on her lips
her lips now perfect
but strangely clinical
she doesn’t allow this
her script is not romance
soon the umbrella
getting ready
a goodbye I cannot even remember
someone walks past hurriedly
shitty rainy city
as she closes the door
I only see their legs
then alone
a good five minutes
till I start the wipers


still alone really
regarding her
still a mystery
what she wanted
who did what choosing
was she an actress
doing research
was this our karmic debt
was I her education
or she mine
it could almost
be somebody else’s
from somebody else’s
to a girl
become woman
named tisa


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  1. Robert, your ability to manage a kite in a gale is remarkable. “Colluding With Tisa” is a revealing and captivating tribute to the memory of mysterious Tisa. I enjoyed the unfolding of the story, this leaves me to think about the special people that come into our lives and their absence quickly replaced with memories. A beautiful and emotional piece. Please enjoy your Monday. ~ Mia


    1. yes. 🙂 It’s odd, Mia, the people we encounter obliquely, briefly, unexpectedly, they often seem to occupy disproportionately large houses inside us after the passage of time. thank you, as always.


  2. Very nice to meet you, RS,
    for a poetic stroll down memory lane
    (and I fully concur regarding THAT
    Elton John song, but I think Bernie Taupin was the lyricist to blame.)


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