L. A. Lawton: Four Poems
The streetlights are blurry with fog
as the Olds glides into the grocery lot.
I leave the car to buy some milk and bananas,
two staples of life, saying to my sister,
“The clerk will tell me to have a nice evening,”
and sure enough, when I go through the checkout,
he does. I don’t tell him that our mother
checked out for good an hour ago, that we left her
for the mortuary to fetch from the hospital
and stopped for milk and bananas on the way
back to her house, suddenly ours. I have rarely
found it so hard to leave any living soul
except my daughter, who used to enjoy
milk and bananas at her small table
before she went to sleep.
When Charli Died
When Charli died
at three a.m.
snow hushed the world,
soft dirge to underscore susurrus
of a daughter’s, sister’s tears
Watching the round flakes drift
down the streetlamp’s glowing cone
I remembered her wistful verse
about little circles of feeling, how she
yearned to be known, to make a splash.
Always a martyr, she might have
splashed the headlines with a murder,
throttled him with swearwords as he snored,
become a scarlet widow
instead of splashing red tracks
on endless essays, like the color
in her verse.
Once she had a poem
published on a yellow bus
that splashed gray paths through
snow and slushy puddles
When Charli died
I remembered how she’d made
a splash in the canal
with the urn from Mother’s ashes–
little circles spreading wider
as it hushed.
I was half-poised to gather pen and paper
in praise of a glorious grace of winter sunshine
after a doomgray, dripping week whose only
firestreak was a single courageous cardinal
flaming on a leafshorn gray-drowned oak–
oh glorious grace of redlife in the gloom,
joy in a dripping-dead world!–when one
appeared, and sat upon the other couch,
and asked if I really thought his dirty bucks
could be resolved, and complained that our son
had been out for an hour (he is fourteen),
and then remarked, “It’s a nice afternoon.”
Oh, glorious grace of winter sunshine!
I can see that cardinal slashing the gloom forever,
and behind him the radiant face of a brave old man
rolling down a clinic corridor, who had no legs at all
but plethoras of pain, and blessed each passing soul
with glorious grace of winter sunshine,
all the being left to him alight with love;
but my verse dissolved beneath a pair of rubber soles
into a “nice afternoon.”
She sees him always with two pairs of eyes.
The outward pair descries no flaw, denies
the faint decay encroaching age supplies,
decries suggestion that the other could
not know him for grail knight in mystic wood
or find him lacking any mortal good.
One marks in him a wise and holy man:
young, old, no matter; destiny the span
of blessing arms, outreaching mind, elan
of meeting, oneness understood, the rule
and no uncertain grace. The inward says, Dear fool,
your heart’s eyes carry blinders, like a mule.