10/02/2014 12:50 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

'Sitting Duck' -- The Poem and the Backstory


(This story appeared in a different version on Tricia's blog. The poem "Sitting Duck" appears in her new book of poetry, The Music of Leaving.)

I write for all kinds of reasons.

As a freelancer it's the way I earn my living. As a blogger, it's a way to connect. Simply connect.

Then there's poetry.

Poetry is my church: I go to it for answers, for comfort, for redemption.

Poetry helps me tease out what I think about the things that happen to me in my life, and how I reference them from then on.

My poem "Sitting Duck" is the perfect example. It came out of the wrenching, bewildering experience I had the first time I fell in love. The piece makes sense of it all somehow, as for me only a poem can.

First, the backstory:

Picture me, in my early 20s, out for a drink with friends. Start of the evening, and it was, literally, eyes across a crowded room. Never happened to me before or since. He was tall, rangy, super confident and a stunner... think Anthony Perkins with a soupçon of Dermot Mulroney. He approached me, asked me if I was alone and whether I had a boyfriend. He checked me out meticulously from head to toe as he registered my answers. I wouldn't have been surprised if he'd asked me to do a 360.

It seems I passed inspection because he suggested we get out of there and find somewhere to talk. Our cup of coffee turned into a four-hour heart-to-heart in a crowded downtown diner. I had never felt so unguarded with a man before. I wanted to tell him everything.

As it happened, I was about to launch into the most ecstatic, baffling, passionate liaison of my life. Paul was his name, and he swept me off my feet and quite out of my mind.

Ever had a Paul in your life? They shave your IQ in half, and the top of your head off. I spent the next six months trying to figure out whether I was good enough, were we actually together, was he seeing someone else (or was there more than one), along with all the other neurotic ramblings that fog up our lenses and throw our instincts to the four winds.

I was so swept up in the nirvana of first love that a whole morning would go by without me realizing it. I'd stare out my office window, spellbound, picturing the two of us together, on a beach, in a plane, picking out wedding invites, buying wallpaper. I was besotted.

How did he break up with me? (Dump is the more apt word.) Well, he never did. Pauls never do. He simply stopped calling. In desperation, I called him. A woman, presumably my replacement, answered his phone proprietarily. I know, it's such a tired cliché, but it stopped my heart. And it didn't beat again in regular rhythm for a long time.

I do thank Paul now for the early glorious moments of that summer when my feet did not touch the ground. Everyone should know that feeling once in their lifetime. But no one should ever have to endure the fallout, that acute pain of being discarded, when you wonder if you'll ever laugh again and truly mean it.

But the man gave me an even greater gift. He helped me leave behind that insecure young girl he knew and move forward into my life as a woman worthy of love.

Here, then, is "Sitting Duck," in memory of Paul, who I trust is still out there somewhere and thoroughly enjoying his third marriage.

Sitting Duck

Everybody loves a train at a distance.
Explains you and me perfectly.
The champion of the dine and dash,
calling for the cheque too soon.
diabolically, you kept me
off balance.
Plans were vague coming from you, up for sudden
inexplicable change.
There was always someone on hold,
someone in your lobby,
drumming their fingers.
Even when alone
we were never, quite
Off kilter, off guard,
I grew expert in the art of rationalization,
the game of catch-up.
It seemed you were always rounding
a corner in the distance
the moment I caught sight of you,
the belt of your flawlessly tailored trench coat
flapping behind you
as you ran.

(Photo courtesy of Polly Chandler)