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The Poet and his Muse

A lovely, sexy graduate student shows up at the poet's cabin in the woods and changes his life. .
Jason Petrov stood at the stove and stirred his oatmeal. He repeated the line of poetry he had been working on since dawn, trying to get it right, but the telephone's shrill ringing shattered his concentration. Fuck! He slammed his spoon down on the counter. Why can't I be left alone? Before picking up the phone, he noticed the empty bird feeder outside his kitchen window, then took a deep breath to suppress his anger before picking up the receiver. He spoke calmly, then stiffened at the voice on the other end.

“Allison! What do you mean you’re on your way here?”

He glanced down at his dog, Oscar, whose whimpers indicated he wanted to go out. Jason held up one finger to Oscar as if saying, “one minute,” then spoke into the receiver.

“You're lost!”

He ran his fingers through his thinning, gray hair. “I didn’t know you were coming here. I don’t know what to say.”

When she announced she was at the food-coop in town, he swallowed, oh no, then said, "Well, you aren't too far. Since you're here, I'll give you directions.”

He walked back into the kitchen, took a deep breath, glanced at his oatmeal in the pot and told her what road to take and to watch out for the big rock on her left, then turn into his lane and keep going through the woods and around a bend, then she’d see a big willow tree on the right and then she'd see his cabin.

“See you soon.” He pressed his angry thumb hard on the cordless phone, then slammed it on the counter and stared at it. I don’t believe it. This is nuts. She'll be here in ten fucking minutes.” He glanced up at the apple-shaped clock and saw it was eight-thirty-five and knew he wouldn’t have time to continue working on the poem.

While waiting for Allison, he stood at the stove and gave the oatmeal a stir and tried to remain calm, but couldn't. “Damn,” he muttered half to himself, annoyed that Allison Rubin was going to show up, unexpected and uninvited, to intrude on his quiet, simple life. All he wanted was to be left alone so that he could work on the book of sonnets he had been writing for the last six months.

After spooning the oatmeal into a bowl, he sprinkled raisins, stirred in a little honey and cinnamon and took the bowl to the round oak table where he had his laptop and notebook, and where he spent most of every morning writing. He looked out the window again, noting the empty bird feeders and tried to remember the line he was trying to get right before the phone rang.“I don’t know about young people today. They just do what they want.”

Though Jason felt flattered that a graduate student would want to do a study of his six books of poetry, he never expected she would just show up at his door. He remembered Allison saying she thought his last book was by far his best work and deserved much better reception than it had received. It was a book published ten years earlier.

Jason knew very little about Allison. He had no idea what she looked like. All he knew was she was a young woman getting her doctorate in literature from the University of Boston and had now made the uninvited five hour trip to his cabin in Maine. She had emailed him eight months earlier telling him that she had discovered his poetry in a used bookstore in Cambridge and knew instantly she had to do her doctorate on his work. She said she was “blown away” by his poetry. Surprised and delighted by her enthusiasm and desire to study his work for her PhD, he agreed to answer some questions and help her in anyway he could. He also told her how much he valued his privacy and time and might not always be available.

All of their emails had been focused on the poems in his earlier books, the techniques he was experimenting with and his use of metaphors and imagery, but also what was going on in his life at the time in an attempt to put the poems in context. Jason was impressed with how serious and disciplined Allison was and how probing and insightful her observations were, often pointing out things in the poetry that he had not been aware of. He thanked her when she shared her appreciation of a poem or a particular line, and they often sent three or four emails back and forth in a day when discussing a particular topic. Then one day, Allison asked if he minded having an online chat and Jason agreed it would be faster and easier.

The chats were definitely more efficient and focused mostly on Jason’s later books. Emily always had her questions prepared, took notes, then typed a new question into the chat and waited for his response. One time, she asked if he had Skype and he wrote back, “No, and I don’t I have any intention of getting it.”

“That’s cool,” she wrote back.

Gradually, as they corresponded and chatted about his poetry, she would ask him what was happening in his personal life and their on-line conversations became friendlier and a little more casual. He mentioned that he baked bread and told her what he had planted in the garden and that deer were browsing in front his cabin, but he never revealed anything too personal.

Recently, towards the end of one of their chats, Allison mentioned she was having personal problems and difficulty concentrating. A week had passed and he hadn’t heard from her, which surprised him, because previously she had contacted him at least every two days with a question. Then, a week ago, he received an email that she had broken up with her lover of two years and she was in a bad way. She might have to take a break from her writing, and then added how much she appreciated the time he was giving her, and again told him how important she thought his work was and that he deserved to be better known.

Jason liked that someone was so interested in his work and his life, especially after having not published a book for ten years. Rarely was he invited to give a reading and he was now resigned to the fact that he was pretty much forgotten after being so acclaimed for his work and his influence on younger poets. It had been twenty years since winning the Pulitzer for his second book, The Hole in the Wall and fifteen years since receiving the National Book Award for his fifth book, The Hills of Shangri la. Five years lapsed before his sixth and final book On Extended Wings was published ten years ago with little notice.

He recognized he was being replaced by the next generation of poets who were now the darling of the literary magazines and the critics for the New York Review of Books and the New Yorker. No longer was he mentioned or published or invited for one or two year positions as Poet in Residence at various universities. Now, he was a reclusive poet in the woods, living on social security, writing everyday and wondering what, if anything, would become of all the new poems he had written. Not many poets were writing sonnets these days or cared about traditional forms.

Jason finished his oatmeal and was rinsing out the bowl when he heard Oscar bark and saw a red Saab drive up and park next to his rusting green pick-up truck. Through their e-mail messages, he had learned she was thirty-five, had entered graduate school ten years after finishing second in her class at Dartmouth, but that was it. All of their conversations had been purely professional up until six or so weeks earlier when the tone had changed slightly. And now, here she was, suddenly showing up. Why?

Jason stood on his small porch while Oscar, barking, ran down the long, winding path towards her. Allison got out and waved over the roof of her car, then leaned back in to get her red backpack, her laptop satchel and a briefcase. He could see she was small with long, dark hair, but that was all until she started walking up the path. Now, he could see she was a slender woman wearing snug, faded jeans, cowboy boots, a long green, unbuttoned flannel shirt that covered a black turtleneck.

She waved again as she made her way up the path, then knelt down to pet Oscar who was still barking. When she stepped up on the porch, she looked around at her surroundings, took a deep breath of relief that she had arrived, then reached out to shake Jason’s hand.

“Bet you’re surprised to see me.”

“You can say that again.” Jason said sarcastically, barely able to hide his annoyance, but was struck by the smallness of her hand in his. Her blue eyes sparkled. Dimples formed when she smiled. Her high cheekbones, olive skin and long, dark curly hair gave her a somewhat wild, exotic look.

“So, what are you doing here?”

He stood tensely in front of the closed screen door, glaring and attempting to suppress his anger by taking a deep breath. Jason liked to think of himself as a person who could “go with the flow,” but Allison's sudden appearance not only angered him, but now, seeing how lovely she was, only added to his conflict.

“I know it was crazy. I can’t explain it. I just wanted to be here. I know you’re upset with me just showing up.”

“Well, you’re here, so I better get used to it.” Jason held the screen door open. “You might as well come in.”

When they entered the kitchen, her eyes widened as she looked up at the wooden ceiling and noticed the skylights, the sunlight pouring in the large windows, the bird feeders, the round oak table with Jason’s laptop and notebook. “Wow, your place is amazing. I tried imagining it, but this is nothing like I imagined.”

Jason liked her enthusiastic response, her radiant smile, the way her eyes moved around the room, how, after she put her backpack and computer satchel on the floor, she rubbed her hand over the wooden counter. He also noticed her breasts stretching the black turtle neck, barely covered by the unbuttoned flannel shirt and how her hips and round ass strained her snug faded jeans.

“So why are you here?” Jason asked.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t really know. It’s complicated. That’s why I’m here.”

“What do you mean it’s complicated? What made you drive five hours without letting me know and just showing up. I have to admit I was upset when you told me you were nearby and asked for directions. I'm not used to visitors.”

“Sorry I upset you. I knew you wouldn’t like it. I mean, you told me many times how you want to be left alone, but I couldn’t help it. I had to come.”

“What do you mean you had to come? I don't understand.”

Allison shrugged her shoulders. “I don't understand either. I don't know what to say.”

Oscar sniffed at her scuffed boots while Jason gazed at her in awkward silence, then reached for his white teapot on the stove. “How about some coffee or tea? I might as well be hospitable. ”

“Coffee would be great. Make it strong, I’ve been on the road since four this morning.” She took a deep breath before speaking. “It's hard to explain why I'm here. Why I had to come.”

“I'm all ears. I'd like to know why you think you had to come here without at least letting me know.”

“Yeah, sorry about that.” Allison shrugged again.“I'll try to explain.”

“ Good,” Jason said and lit the flame under the tea pot.

“Well, you know I broke up with my boyfriend, I wrote you that, but what you don’t know is it was because of you.”

“Me!” Jason's eyes widened. “What do you mean it was because of me? What did I have to do with you breaking up with your boyfriend?”

“He was jealous. I mean, it’s true I kept talking about you and your poetry a lot and he knew I was reading everything I could find, every article, every review, all the interviews, especially the one in Paris Review...that was amazing, Jason, that interview and also the article you wrote for Atlantic Monthly about the importance of poetry in a computerized society, and how you asked what it means to be human in a highly technological society and that was way before computers took over like they have. That one was visionary, really, sorry to be rambling.”

“That’s okay, but I still don’t get it, what do you mean he was jealous…jealous of what?”

“You.” Allison bit her lower lip, paused and took a deep breath. “He said all I ever talked about was you and if I wasn’t talking about you, I was writing about you, or reading about you, then one night he kept asking me to come to bed. It was late and I’m a night person and was really into writing and he blew up and yelled, ‘You’re in love with that fucking poet!’ I tried to calm him down and told him he was being ridiculous. We had a huge fight. He was angry a lot and to tell you the truth, I began to realize he was a baby, really. I tried to reassure him that I loved him and wanted to be with him, but then I saw he was right.”

“What do you mean he was right?”

When the teapot’s shrill whistle interrupted, Jason listened to Allison while filling the French Press with steaming water.

“I don’t know. I mean, he was right that I talked about you a lot, but then I started thinking about how I felt when I read your poetry. It wasn’t just the words, but it was something more, like I could feel your spirit, like I thought you were speaking directly to me. It’s so hard to explain. I told you I found your book in a used book store in Cambridge and was blown away, and I knew I had to read everything and that’s what I did. I got out all of your books from the library. I was just finishing graduate school at Boston University and had to have a topic for my dissertation. I had several poetry courses, you know, the eighteenth century classical poets, the Romantics, I did a great paper on Blake by the way, and Keats, you would have loved my paper on Keats, ‘heard melodies are sweet but those unheard are sweeter’ I love that line. And then I was studying Twentieth Century poets, Frost, Eliot, Pound, Wallace Stevens, a bunch of others. I had never heard of you until I found your book in that used book store. I googled you and well, here I am.”

“I know you’re here, but I’m not following you. Why are you here?”

“I had to find out what was going on with me. So here I am. I couldn’t stop thinking about you, dreaming about you, talking about you. I can see now why Kevin was upset with me and why he couldn’t stand you, even though he knew nothing about you and why he just stormed out of our apartment. That’s when we broke up. It was irrational, I thought and I was in a bad way, confused, hurt, upset, but then I woke up last night. I sat up in bed like I was hit with lightning and had this feeling.”

“What feeling?” Jason asked.

“I had to see you in person. I mean I have lots of pictures of you from different magazines and I know you’re a lot older than me by twenty-eight years and you’re going to think I’m some whacky woman, but I was drawn here. I wasn’t sure if it was me being romantic, which I am, super romantic, but I was having sexual fantasies about you. ”

“Allison! I had no idea. Our conversations were always so focused on my work. You seemed so disciplined and serious. I know that recently we started writing to each other about different things, and I knew you were having problems with your boyfriend, but I never felt there was something sexual. It never occurred to me.”

“How could you? I knew how you said you valued your time and privacy and though I was dying to talk about other things, I kept it professional just out of respect for you.”

“Thank you.”

Jason moved his computer and notebook aside, then brought two mugs to the table. They were silent as he poured coffee into her mug and into his. He brought over his honey bowl then asked, “Would you like cinnamon in your coffee?”

“Wow! You like cinnamon, too. That’s so cool. I love cinnamon in my coffee.”

Again, Jason had to chuckle at her enthusiastic response while he got his little jar of cinnamon and placed it on the table with a spoon.

When Allison moved to sit down, her leg brushed his thigh. Jason tried ignoring the subtle jolt that rushed through him. That felt good, he gasped, then dismissed the sensation as being foolish but was surprised that such a tiny touch had awakened something deep in him, somehow reminding him what it felt like to be near a woman.

“I know I’m probably upsetting your life by suddenly showing up like this,” Allison said as she added the cinnamon to her coffee but no honey. “But well, you write a lot about following your dreams and passions, that’s one of the themes in your poems that I loved, and I wrote a lot about that, also, your ideas and feelings about destiny, very complex but fascinating, how you think everything is random, things just happen.”

“Yes, destiny and randomness are big themes of mine. And you’re right I do write a lot about how I followed my dreams, that’s one of the reasons I’m here in the woods.”

“Yes, I know.” Allison looked at Jason over the rim of her coffee mug. “And that’s one of the reasons I’m here.”

“What are you saying?” Jason raised his eyebrows, baffled by her statement. He watched her take a quick sip of coffee and liked how pretty she looked sitting in the sunny window. He glanced down at Oscar sniffing her backpack and computer case. “Are you saying you’re following a dream?”

“Damn this is hard for me.” Allison held the coffee mug away from her mouth and took a deep breath, “But when I found myself fantasizing about you after writing all afternoon and sometimes late into the night, I wondered if I was falling in love with you just from reading your poetry. I was captivated. I felt I knew you. I could feel your breathing. Now I know why my boyfriend was jealous. I had hot fantasies of you. I wanted you.”

Jason swallowed and didn’t know how to respond to Allison's blunt and direct words. Her honesty touched him, excited him. Though the accidental brushing of her thigh against his when she sat down had sent a bolt through him, he dismissed the sensation as his being foolish while also acknowledging how pretty she looked sitting in the sunny window, confessing why she felt compelled to come to him. Her words surprised and confused him. He had no idea that the woman who had been so professional and focused on her study of his work was so enticing. It never occurred to him, but now, after suddenly showing up and explaining why she was here, he wasn’t sure what to do or say. All he knew was he was struggling to keep his arousal from growing while realizing Allison was young and vulnerable, and it would be wrong for him to let anything happen. She’s young enough to be my daughter, he thought and knew he would have to control the situation and not let anything complicate his life.

After an awkward silence, sipping his coffee, seeing Allison's eyes gazing into his, Jason took a deep breath. “Allison, I’m too old for you. It would be wrong for me to take advantage of you.”

“That’s so stupid.” Allison put her coffee mug down and stiffened, changing the atmosphere in the room.

“No it’s not. It would be a huge mistake. It was foolish of you to come all the way here with your sexual fantasy. There’s no way I would let that happen.”

Jason was trying to ignore her blue eyes, how her breasts strained her shirt, how her brushing his thigh awakened memories he was trying to ignore.

“Since when is age an issue with you?” she smirked. “Jason, I know about you and all the lovers you had after your wife died.”

“You do, how do you know anything about that? That’s all gossip.”

“You had a reputation. I interviewed some of your colleagues at Sarah Lawrence and at Bennington, then you taught at the University of Boston and I know some of the professors who are still there who remember you and they told me lots of stories, off the record, of course, since it had nothing to do with my dissertation, but that’s how I know.”

“Well, some of that might be true, not that it’s any of your business, but that was then and this is now. I’m out of that scene and have been for almost ten years. That’s why I moved to Maine. My life was getting too complicated and I decided I wanted to write more and not have any more emotional turmoil. It got too distracting.”

“Well, it also produced some of your best love poetry, so filled with yearning, I mean, your poetry is so erotic to begin with, so honest and your descriptions were so sensuous and subtle, so understated and suggestive that it made it really hot. And you know that, don’t you?”

“Can we change the topic?”

“Why, what’s wrong Jason?”

“Nothings wrong. I just think we should not talk about this. I’m flattered that you feel so turned on by me, but this is ridiculous, you coming here thinking I’m just going to get in bed with you. It’s just wrong for me to take advantage of you coming all the way from Boston to fuck me. I won’t let that happen.”

“Well, I guess I goofed.” Allison shook her head. “Forget it. I made a stupid mistake following my fantasies, I’ll deal with it.”

“Good. That’s sensible,” Jason said and glanced at the empty bird feeder, then back at her.

“I guess you’re right. I have to be sensible. Sorry I put you in this position.”

Allison sighed, then stood up and glanced down at her backpack and computer. She went to the window and was quiet. Jason watched her looking at the flower boxes, then out at the garden in front of the cabin, the six raised beds lined with tree trunks, the daffodils and tulips on the hillside, the bird feeders, and the woods surrounding the cabin. He went to the stove and poured himself another cup of coffee, then asked Allison if she wanted more. She put up her hand, indicating she didn’t and continued looking out the window. Jason cleared his throat, took a sip of his coffee and admired how her face glowed so radiantly in the sunlight, how her long dark hair curled below her shoulders, how her snug jeans strained against her thighs and ass.

“Hey I just got an idea.” Allison faced Jason.

“What?”

“Why don’t I stay here for a day or two and work on my dissertation. You will be right here and we can discuss things. Isn’t that a good idea? Most of the time I would be working and I wouldn’t be bothering you. What do you think?”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.” He knew he would have difficulty concentrating on his work if she was working across from him or even in the other room. He also realized how risky it would be having her sleep in the small, spare bedroom next to his. “I don’t know. I’m so used to being alone. I’m not sure I want to have another person here.”

“I understand, but I think it would really help me finish. The deadline for a first draft is three weeks away and I still have a lot to do. I promise I won’t be a distraction except when we’re discussing your work. You won’t even know I’m here. I’m disciplined when I’m working. You know that. Come on, let me stay.” She put her hands together in front of her as if she were praying. “Please. It will really help me.”

Jason sighed deeply, something he frequently did. He closed his eyes and thought about her idea. He knew he should reject it, but then remembered his philosophy to say “yes” to whatever presented itself, and to “go with the flow.” Though he was certain he didn't believe in God, or any religion, this philosophy of acceptance was something he deeply believed and allowed to guide his life. He believed in the energy of Life and that what presented itself was a gift or opportunity. If he believed in God, he would say “She was God-sent.” So when Allison made the suggestion, his initial response was to say no but instead said, “Okay, Allison” and sighed, exasperated by her pleading. “Okay, stay. I think it will be okay. We’ll see. Just a day or two but no longer.”

“Really, oh wow!” Allison's eyes widened. It looked like she wanted to hug him for saying yes, but didn’t. Instead, she held her hand on her chest. “Wow!” she repeated then laughed. “I guess a woman my age shouldn’t be saying ‘wow,’ but it’s one of my favorite words, I mean I’m not a kid, I shouldn’t say ‘wow.’ Sorry.”

“There’s nothing wrong with saying ‘wow.’” Jason chuckled at her exuberance and again felt her vibrant energy filling his cabin. “By the way, are you hungry? I know you were driving and probably haven’t had breakfast. Do you want anything?”

“No, I had an apple in the car and I don’t eat much in the morning and I don’t want to bother you. I have raisins in my backpack and a chocolate candy bar. I’m addicted to chocolate, but I do like to cook. I’m passionate about cooking and if you will let me make dinner for you tonight, that would be my way of saying thank you for being so nice and letting me stay here.”

“I didn’t know you liked to cook. I hardly know anything about you, but that sounds good, except I don’t know what we have. I haven’t been shopping for over a week. There’s lettuce and spinach in the garden but that’s about it. It’s still early.”

“I’ll figure something out, Jason. I’m good at making meals from whatever is around. I know you don’t know much about me, but you’re going to find out, I’m a lot more than a kooky graduate student, but, like I said, I promise I won’t bother you. I’ll just do my work while you do yours, then later, I will make us dinner, you’ll see and I promise you, your tongue will throw a party for your mouth.”

Again, Jason laughed at Allison's way of speaking to him, no longer feeling upset that she just showed up unannounced, but found he was enjoying her lively energy, the way she looked directly into his eyes when she spoke. Though she originally said she came here because of her fantasies, now there was nothing teasing or flirtatious in her manner. It was as if she accepted his decision. Still, he found her passionate way of speaking appealing and instinctively knew that she was bringing something into his life that he had been missing for a long time, but also knew it could only be for a day or two or he would begin missing his privacy and absolute need for quiet.

“So where can I set up to start working and where will I be sleeping?” She bent down to pick up her backpack and computer, then started petting Oscar.“You’re a sweet little dog, aren’t you, Oscar.” She moved her hand up and down his back then stood up. “Lead me to my boudoir.”

“Yes, madam,” Jason responded playfully, then led Allison through a book-lined room, then to the small bedroom with a skylight over the bed.

“Wow!” Allison looked up at the skylight then threw her backpack and computer onto the bed. “What a cool room this is. Your place is magical. I can feel the love you put into it,” she added and pushed her hand down on the mattress to see how firm it was.

“You can work at that desk,” Jason said, pointing to an old green desk against the windows in the other room. She walked over to it and moved her fingers over the surface, and looked around the room at the books filling the shelves and more books sloppily piled on top of them.

“Jason, I can’t believe I’m here. It’s beautiful. I think I will really be able to finish my dissertation here and that would be so cool, really. Describing how you live will add a lot.”

“Interesting. I never thought my cabin would become part of your dissertation.”

While she leaned back against the desk with her ass on the edge, Jason tried to ignore her nipples pushing against her tight turtle neck shirt before he quickly looked away.

“Will I be able to see any of the new poems you’ve been working on? I think that would be of interest.”

“I guess so. I mean, I have a lot of poems no one has read. I’d like you to read them. I’ve been writing mostly sonnets lately, but I’m not sure it will help with your thesis since your focus is on the origin of my imagery and what you called my 'suppressed romanticism.’”

“I think using your recent work will be sensational. I think it will be revealing and reflect on your earlier work, you know, the journey theme.” She scrunched her eyebrows as if pondering a question she wanted to ask. “Why haven’t you tried getting your new poems published?”

“I've tried a few times, but I kept getting rejections, mostly form letters saying thank you, this is not for us, some not even signed. Occasionally, I received a few written notes from editors I knew a long time ago--polite, friendly rejections. I’m just out of fashion now, but maybe that will change. I don’t know, meanwhile, I just keep writing.”

“That must be so hard for you. I mean, you were famous. You won the Yale Younger Poets prize when you were twenty-three and then the Pulitzer and The National Critics Award and they had a special on PBS with you being interviewed by Charlie Rose and George Plimpton interviewed you for Paris Review and now you can’t get published.”

“The important thing, Allison, is to keep writing no matter what. Maybe I will be rediscovered who knows. It’s all fucking luck. Fame is fleeting. I have a line in a poem, ‘Beware of fame, for she’s a whore who will break your heart.’

“Wow! What a great line.”

Allison's enthusiastic response, her sparkling blue eyes, the way the sun shown on her dark hair made it glow as she leaned back against the desk causing her breasts to press against her turtleneck shirt. A sudden desire to hold her in his arms swept over him, but he squashed that impulse and instead, walked towards the other room.

“Well, I’ll let you be.” He turned and walked to the doorway separating the two rooms. “I’m going to get back to work. I’ll see you later.”

“Right and I promise I won’t bother you. I have plenty to do. I’ll get myself settled. I might have to come and fill up my water container, but you won’t even know I’m here. I’ll see you later and remember I’m going to make you a great dinner.”

Jason stood at the door he usually kept open, but now thought it best to shut so that his concentration would not be disturbed. He knew how sensitive he was to sounds when he was writing.

Allison made a small goodbye gesture by opening and closing her fingers, “Thanks again for letting me stay. I’m really happy to be here.”

“Good.” He smiled, touched by the sincere, innocent, almost childlike way she said how happy she was and the childlike way she opened and closed her small fingers as she said goodbye. He almost said, “I'm glad you're here too,” but swallowed the words, denying the warm, tender feeling that swept over him. “Make yourself comfortable and I'll see you later.”

After closing the door, he sat down at the round oak table and glanced down at the page in his notebook where he had been writing and tried to recall the line he had been saying before the phone rang. He looked at the closed door, aware that Allison was on the other side. Then, suddenly, the words came to him. He remembered the line he was trying to write when she interrupted him. He picked up his pen and wrote it down and found himself unable to stop writing as the next line flowed out from his pen and the next and the next. He was not struggling to write, the words just came, surprising him that he was able to concentrate on the poem and not think about Allison in the next room, or the empty bird feeder, or anything but the sonnet he was writing and suddenly, the poem was finished with a powerful couplet that surprised him. He read it over several times.

And know that you control on every page,
a lovelier and more significant rage.

Jason was thrilled with the sonnet and delighted how he found the poem pouring out of him; the rhymes coming effortlessly. He knew he was eager to read it to Allison later, suddenly thinking about her working in the next room. He felt the strangeness that she was here in his cabin and writing about his poetry. Sitting back in his chair, tugging at his beard, looking out at the trees that surrounded his cabin, he noticed a squirrel on his windowsill searching for any sunflower seeds that might have fallen from the empty feeder, then suddenly he remembered how it felt when her thigh accidentally touched his and he felt a jolt go through him.

Remembering the sensation, another poem grabbed him, forcing him to get it down.

He began writing the new poem and knew it was inspired by the feeling of Allison's leg touching his. He couldn’t believe how quickly he was writing, how the lines were flowing, how the rhymes of the new sonnet came easily and inevitably and he wondered what was happening. Usually, he had to labor over every line, cross out words, count the syllables, struggle to get the line right, but now, for some reason he couldn’t explain, the words and lines just poured out of him and within half an hour, he was writing the last few lines of a poem he titled, “One Slight Touch.”

I wonder, ignorant still, how, once
our senses know, what force, what gay alarm
moves through the nerves, decides and instantly,
in one slight touch, speaks out such poetry.

As soon as he wrote the last word, tears swelled inside of him, a feeling that always swept over him when he knew he had nailed it. He also knew he hadn’t felt that sensation for a long time, and though most of his new poems were well written, successful sonnets, none of them brought the rare sensation he now felt when he finished these last two new poems in a less than an hour. Something was different.

While he was typing the poems into his laptop, copying them from his notebook, he glanced up at the clock and saw he had been working for an hour and half, then heard the door from the other side of the cabin squeak open and saw Allison, barefooted, tiptoeing past him at the table and stood at the sink.

“Sorry, I just need to get some water.” She spoke softly.

“It’s okay, I’m just typing up these sonnets, I’m not writing, you’re not disturbing me.”

“Good. I don’t want to disturb you, but I drink a lot of water.” She held up her empty container.

“Its fine,” Jason said and went back to typing, while Allison continued to fill up her bottle. After typing a few words, glancing down at his notebook, he looked over at her holding the bottle under the faucet while looking out the window and again noticed her slender, petite body, the roundness of her ass in the snug jeans, her breasts and her long dark hair. He noticed the dangling earrings, her small bare feet. The water was overflowing her bottle as she stared out the window then quickly turned off the faucet.

“It’s really beautiful here.” She turned to him. “I’m really getting a lot done. It feels good to work here.” She paused, “How’s the writing going?”

“Good. I just finished two sonnets.”

“Wow, really, will you let me read them later?”

“Yes,” Jason said, then realized the sonnet he had written was inspired by her touching his thigh earlier. He was afraid he would be confessing something he wasn’t sure he wanted her to know. “Well, maybe. I’m not sure. I sometimes like poems to rest a few days before I think they're really finished.”

“Okay, I understand.” Allison nodded and tightened the top of her water bottle. A disappointed pout on her lips was quickly replaced by her glancing at his laptop.

“So is that what you do, write your poems in a notebook then type them up?”

“Yes,” Jason answered, seeing her expression change to one of fascination. She nodded.

“This is helpful for me to see how you work. It’s interesting. I mean I’ve read everything, but now I can see the process,” she said, nodding. “Have you always worked this way?”

“Well, years ago I used a typewriter. I just started using this laptop about three years ago, but yes, I always write in a notebook before typing them up. I keep all of my drafts and I have all of my old notebooks somewhere.”

“Wow, I wish I could see your notebooks. That would help my dissertation. It would help me with tracing your use of imagery from your earliest poems.”

“Well, you have the poems. I’d rather you not see the mess of drafts and revisions.” He glanced down at his notebook, then back at her standing by the sink.

Allison looked down at Jason’s feet and laughed.

“What are you laughing at? What the hell is so funny?”

“You’re wearing one gray sock and one blue sock,” she said. “And your sweater is on backwards, did you know that?”

Jason looked down at his feet. “Oh, yes, well, I guess you could call it a mixed metaphor.” He laughed. “I’m more precise about the syllables in a sonnet than what I’m wearing.”

“It’s cute,” Allison said. “Listen, I’m having a problem with one of your poems from your first book, can I get it and see if you can clear something up?” She paused, “Would that be bothering you?”

“No, I’d be glad to help. I think I am done writing for today.” Jason enjoyed how earnest she was, how quickly she went from being light and laughing at his socks to wanting to know more about his poetry.

Allison dashed into the other room and came back with his first book, A Patch of Grass. He glanced down at the yellow cover with a drawing of grass growing out of a crack in the sidewalk and remembered writing those poems in his early twenties.

She moved her chair closer to Jason. Her arm brushed his arm as they hovered over the book and he liked the way her arm felt and was surprised that she sat so close. Jason looked at her smooth olive skin and could smell the fragrance of her shampoo. When she opened the book and turned the pages, Jason could see all the words underlined, little question marks and scribbles in the margins. “It’s the title poem,” she said, opening to the last page in the book and began reading.

And I am like a patch of grass between the cracks of sidewalk.” When she finished reading the line, she placed the opened book on the table and looked up at him. “Tell me about that, why that image?”

“That’s from a long time ago.” Jason thought about the line as he looked at the book in front of them on the table. “That’s one of my earliest poems.”

“I know it’s one of your early poems, but you made it the title of your book. Why did you do that? I mean, why is this poem so important to you?”

Jason noticed her blue, questioning eyes, her soft lips as she spoke, and found himself distracted by how sweet and serious she was. Damn, she’s pretty, he thought while trying to concentrate on her question.

“Well, that’s what I felt at the time. I felt insignificant, like a weed growing in an indifferent world but struggling to grow and live. I saw the patch of grass between the cracks in the sidewalk as heroic and determined to grow despite the circumstances of its life.”

“You have a lot of images like that.” Allison looked at Jason then blurted out, “Wow, you have such a twinkle in your eyes.”

Allison's sudden statement startled Jason, but what surprised him more was when she suddenly moved her lips to his and kissed him. Jason’s first response was to pull his mouth away, but couldn’t. Her lips felt so good, so soft and he knew this moment had been building since she arrived, and though he tried ignoring why she said she came there, he also tried denying he found her alluring, tried shoving aside the way he felt earlier when her thigh brushed his, how it became the subject of his new sonnet, how her lips felt like dew on the morning grass absorbing the sunlight, getting warmer and he suddenly found himself returning her kiss, feeling her lips, feeling his tongue probing and wanting to open her mouth and find her tongue, but suddenly he stopped and pulled his mouth away.

“We can’t. This is wrong,” He sat back in his chair.

“No it’s not.” Allison reached for his hand.

“I can’t let this happen. I can’t.”

“But you want it, too. I see how you look at me. I can feel your desire for me. You don’t know me very well, but I know I'm meant to be here. You told me you just wrote two sonnets and you know it’s because I’m here. I’m right, aren’t I?”

“This is crazy.” Jason swallowed and took a deep breath.

“No it’s not, Jason, your poetry brought me here. It was bringing me here ever since the day I found your book in that old bookstore. It’s what caused my old boyfriend to feel jealous and leave and why I had fantasies of you.”

“I don’t believe this is happening.” Jason felt her intensity as she held his hand and with her other hand reached for his face, touched his cheek, then cupped the back of his head and pulled him to her lips. She kissed him harder and was awakening in him the desires he had been fighting. Now his lips met hers and he knew he wanted nothing more than to devour her mouth and open his heart and accept, even at his age, what she was offering him. He loved how their tongues felt swirling madly when she suddenly moved and straddled his legs. They wrapped their arms around each other and embraced as they kissed. He felt her breasts crushed against his chest. His hands moved and held her ass and they started grinding harder. She started humping him as their intense lust grew hotter. He lifted her and they stood by the table embracing each other, kissing madly before moving to the long green couch on the other side of the room, where she pulled him down on her body, her legs spreading to welcome him, and they felt each others' desperate desire to express what was causing their hearts to beat faster, their breathing to rise, their passion to take them to the ecstasy they craved like hungry animals. And that’s what happened.

They frantically undressed and tossed their jeans and shirts across the room and Jason entered her with what started off as gentle, but ended with both of them screaming at the top of their lungs as they both exploded in overwhelming orgasms that let them know her sudden arrival that morning was a gift to cherish and accept.

Allison made a delicious dinner that night, finding several cans of tuna in the pantry, onions, eggs, noodles, bread crumbs and made a delicious baked casserole she served with a salad of lettuce and spinach from Jason’s garden and a simple oil and vinegar dressing. They lit candles, drank two bottles of red wine, talked about their lives. Allison loved how Jason talked about his four children and told how when his wife died at forty seven of cancer, and even though they were divorced, he was there on her deathbed at the end and how tears came to his eyes when he remembered her dying words, “Daddy’s here.”

Allison told Jason about her mother, how her father left when she was three and she never saw or heard from him, how she married when she was twenty and was divorced at twenty three, how she traveled, worked at various jobs before going back to school for her doctorate and here she was, not only finishing her dissertation on the poetry of Jason Petrov, but actually sitting next to him after making passionate love.

A year later, Jason’s collection of sonnets, The Hungry Heart was published to rave reviews in the New York Times and other papers. Allison went with him on his reading tour to a dozen bookstores across the country and his book was on the short list for the Puckerbrush Award. After the tour, they returned to his cabin where Allison had been turning her dissertation into a book about Jason’s life and work while helping him in the garden. They took long walks with Oscar, sat on his porch watching fireflies, listened to music. She loved when he read her a new poem. They made passionate love, sometimes in the afternoon, always late at night and first thing in the morning. Jason was writing the best poetry of his life, sonnets, villanelles, and more and more free verse, poems that flowed from him like never before.

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