Last Thing on My Mind


Tom Paxton will be joining members of the Irish American Writers and Artists and many others to honor singer/songwriter Judy Collins at the IAW&A’s Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award Event on Oct. 15. Tom’s songs have been recorded by Judy, Pete Seeger, Peter Paul and Mary, Willie Nelson, John Denver, and Joan Baez to name just a few. I was motivated to write the following story of “love lost” listening to one of my favorite songs, Tom’s “The Last Thing on My Mind.” ———- “She’s here,” the doorman said over the intercom. She came to return the last vestiges of our relationship, a sweater, a few CDs, photos. I stepped into the elevator and descended to the lobby. This is it, I thought. There’ll be no trace, nothing left behind. ——— Two Months Earlier I stood silently, numbed by her voice. My foot sifted through the sand. I faced the sea, squinting at its reflection. All the words unspoken: Come near, I want to smell the scent of each word. Put your lips on mine, I want to taste every fading moment. Our footprints turned to brine “It’s a lesson too late for the learnin’ Made of sand, made of sand In the wink of an eye my soul is turnin’ In your hand, in your hand.” ———- Five Months Earlier We stared into the Bleecker Street café. Young shadows coupling, backs arched; faces poised to touch. Her long fingers pressed hard against the ridges of my life. “As we walk my thoughts are a tumblin’ Tumblin’ round, round and round. Underneath our feet, the subways rumblin’ Underground, underground.” ———- One Year Earlier She wanted me beside her but she wanted to be free. How could separateness dissolve into one, I thought. “Allow me my own path,” she said. I insisted otherwise. “You got reasons a –plenty for goin’ This I know, this I know. For the weeds have been steadily growing, Please don’t go, please don’t go.” ———- Two Years Earlier, April We met in unguarded splendor. I don’t know the small truth or every detail of that day. I do, however, know the larger and profound truth of the way my body and my mind had truly been met by her body and mind. Her breath pierced my emotions; her flesh bled into my heart; her delicate scent liberated my boundaries. “As I lie in my bed in the mornin’, Without you, without you. Each song in my breast dies a –borning, Without you, without you.” ———- Two Years and One Month Earlier, March 6, 4:30 PM I noticed her standing in the middle of the room. Are we spirits inhabiting human form? Was it her voice, her face, her scent? How do events conspire to create these moments? I knew what it was to be known. “Are you going away with no word of farewell? Will there be not a trace left behind? Well, I could have loved you better; I didn’t mean to be unkind.” ———- The elevator door opened. I walked towards her. “Hi. How are you?” “Fine, thanks.” “You’re looking well. Your sister?” “Yes, yes, she’s fine.” “I see.” She handed me the items, turned, and walked out of my life. “You know that was the last thing on my mind. You know, girl, that was the last thing on my mind.” After she’d gone, I stood at the door. I watched her walk down the street, get into her car and drive off. And still, I stood there. I didn’t realize how conspicuously solitary I was until the doorman placed a hand on my shoulder.

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