A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
One time your eye looked eggplant. Nothing was said, but by instinct you knew how a decent boy should put such a matter in public: how he (how stupid, how clumsy) had stumbled into that door. And if another time you couldn’t capture the flag or play tag with the others, you knew them beneath contempt, beneath you, if only you’d “apply yourself,” God damn it. Why condescend then to tell them why you limped, her errant kick to the meat of your thigh? Besides, you’d earned it -- no? –the goose-egg under your trousers. On the other hand, the open handed blows left scarce a mark, applied to your head or neck as you bent– whatever she thought, applying yourself– to your desk, to a book of numbers that just wouldn’t listen to reason, at least not to your dumb version. They’d at most distract, those slaps, deficient as they seemed in the fiercer passion that made you what you were you are you were you are. At times you feel so tired, as you did come afternoon, though you’d fetch from somewhere strength to will yourself up that same flight of steps, for all the whiteness of her knuckles where the hands clamped the shuddering rail at the top, the faraway top, because you knew, God damn it, you somehow knew that with application one day at last you’d climb it, you’d climb it properly for once, and then -- I love you. She’d come right out and say it.
Sydney Lea was the Poet Laureate of Vermont (2011-15). His thirteenth collection of poetry is Here (Four Way Books, 2019).
Copyright 2021 Sydney Lea