Lea Sydney Click to

LeaSydney Lea founded The New England Review and edited it for twenty years. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of one novel, A Place in Mind (Story Line, 1997). His many books of poetry include Ghost Pain (Sarabande, 2005) and Pursuit of a Wound (Illinois, 2000).The University of Michigan Press will soon publish a collection of his essays.


If I passed their sway-backed house on a summer day,
like anyone in town I’d hear Fred scraping
his cherished rosewood fiddle,
which is now just char.
Hazel would be singing, no better than her husband played.
Neither one cared. They made their music for fun–
and I made fun of them both.
Then came fire.
I feel odd guilt to consider their frailty,
And I wonder, What am I here to see?


Out of nowhere I think of an early love,
and how often I laughed at her dreams of being a painter,
at what she hoped but was simply unable to save
with shapes and colors on canvas.
Of course she left me.
My life has been more capacious than I deserve,
but in those days, how loss scorched my soul!
I was all but speechless. She later died of an illness,
horribly, young.
I reflect that after her fire for me
had cooled and soon enough simply guttered,
I sometimes wished catastrophe would strike her.


Fred and Hazel, reduced to cinder:
that was a shock and a shame.
But more vanished too, some even beforehand.
The children they bred in that old house
had moved far off years back,
though they’ve come today to reap what little they may.
Their son and two daughters are here,
unlike the initialed silverware;
the tunes we mocked;
crude watercolors Fred wrought of sunsets,
snowstorms, birds, old barns, and deer;
Hazel’s antimacassars–
black wisps on blackened couch and chair;
old photographs of his and her parents,
long gone, now gone again. And again
I’m thinking of goneness,
the way my lover would dip the brush in paint
and scowl, as if in pain.
Here, so little remains to sell, it’s absurd.
The auctioneer stumbles, searching for words.