Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Sydney Lea: Passing the Arts and Crafts Fair

–in mem. Irving Chamberlin (1929-2011)

I read the sign on the fence, Artists Can Heal the Planet, and I think, Oh no, they can’t.

With few arts of my own to rely on, I liked to visit Irv’s shop, to watch him build a chair you could actually sit on. But I loved him, chair or no chair. There aren’t many like him anymore, the handy, soft-spoken old ones, who still know how to farm, how to raise up a house you can live in, how to still-hunt a whitetail. Of course, you have to break down their reticence, which takes patience, always well repaid. But even then, they play their parts in their own stories pretty humbly.

Irv dropped as he tilled the garden next to his and Marion’s house on the river, where today his ivory potato flowers likely display their blooms in neat rows. The potato flowers would do for his funeral, lovely as they are– more so than whatever the artists may be displaying in their earth-healing fair. Not that I know that; I merely suspect it.

Irv’s gone, and the earth keeps whirling, not to be healed for now, maybe never. Probably never.

How fine, that almost shy way the man would greet anyone he cared for, his smile barely perceptible, his ice-blue eyes cast down, his words hard to discern at first. Not that Irv was cold, only modest. 

He was what he was, irreplaceable among other things.

The day is wind-raked, so Irv’s weathervane rooster must be spinning like the planet in question. He wrought the vane himself, I believe. It must point in every direction. Just to think of it is a grief.



Copyright 2019 Sydney Lea

Sydney Lea was Poet Laureate of Vermont from 2011-2015. His thirteenth collection of poems, Here, is now available from Four Way Books.

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