Tuesday
Sep112012

Poetry by Kathy Lauder and Casey Dorman

Two Poems by Kathy Lauder

Note: When Kathy Lauder’s, New Shoes was published in the Spring issue of Lost Coast Review the first stanza was left out. We apologize and have published New Shoes in its entirety, below, along with a second poem by Kathy.

The Editor

 

New Shoes

 

 At six I cheerfully thrust my feet,

sleek and neat in patent leather,

through a hatch at the base

of a chrome-tipped podium, and we all

stared wide-eyed through magic binoculars

at the spectacle – tarsals, metatarsals,  

phalanges, tidy as an add-a-pearl necklace! 

Clasped in the gentle embrace

of ghostly cowhide, my little piggies lined up,

wholesome and straight as crossing guards,

and my beaming parent snapped open her handbag.

 

Sixty-six now, arms above my head,

I slide through a humming machine

like vacuum-packed meat

on a grocery checkout belt.

A technician rings up the charges:

a gallstone large as a boiled egg;

nodules and swellings and lumps, oh no;

shadows swimming below the surface

lethal and translucent as a bloom of jellyfish;

arthritis gnawing at the bones.

 

 

Absolution

 

The swallow

pings

off the headlight

 

like a tennis ball,

dead before I can

gasp.

 

In the mirror I

watch it bounce

and flatten,

 

a tiny black checkmark

in the road

tallying another

 

transgression.

 

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.

 

By morning it is gone.

 

 

 Kathy Lauder is a researcher and librarian with the Tennessee State Historical Society. She lives near Nashville, TN

 

The Lady Revisited

 

                By

      Casey Dorman

 

We must leave it now to fate.

You will write at any rate.

Perhaps it is not too late.

And I shall sit here serving tea to friends.

T. S. Eliot

Portrait of a Lady

 

 

Angry waves assault the ancient seawall,

Which fends the shore against the pounding swells,

Above which proud homes loom like landlocked

          hulls,  

Their battened shutters braced to face the gales.

An archaic postal box stands sentry

Marking the familiar entry

To her house, cloaked in its wooded veil.

 

The road snakes like a river through the trees.

I set myself to take the tortuous turn.

The dried leaves fly like snow blown by a breeze

Or windblown grains of sand poured from an urn.

Granite outcrops limn a griffin’s form,

Or bust of lion, legend born

And nurtured by her manor, mother of myths.

 

Before me stands a cottage, not a castle,

Its weathered clapboard peeling, grounds forlorn,

Unkempt and scarred with ugly arid patches,

Its shrubs untrimmed, its flowers choked by thorn,

My misshaped memory’s a cruel jest.

I wonder, will I find her breasts 

Now sagging, hands unsteady, bones infirm?

 

The house is dark, leaves drift against the door.

I ask myself, should I just turn and leave?

I’m here to greet, to ask for nothing more

And tell myself this time I will not grieve.

I knock; the door is opened wide.

I wonder will I be denied?

But no, she smiles, her face unchanged by time.

 

“It’s you,” she says. Her hair is streaked with gray,

A few strands fractious, falling out of place.

“A vision from the past,” is all I think to say,

And can’t help wondering do I dare embrace?

Did loss which buried me in gloom

Entomb her too, should I presume?

I shudder at the thought of her in pain. 

 

She opens wide the door, invites me in.

“Let’s do share tea. I can’t believe it’s you.”

I search for signals, for some telltale glimpse

Of something more behind the patent view,

The public face, which disguised truth

When we were lovers in our youth.

But just as then, she offers hospitality.

 

Her skin is smooth, unmarred by signs of age

Though makeup soils the collar of her dress.

A subtle scent retrieves a repressed page;

She still demands a tribute, nothing less.

“You’re well?” I ask amid the clink

Of cup and saucer, on the brink

Of failing to find anything to say.

 

 

The crackle of a fire, which she has had me set,

A pyre atop the stone hearth’s ash-filled bed,

Provides a backdrop as we both attempt

To circumvent the raising of the dead.

Blithe diversions I am posing 

Serve to keep our banter going.

We both are quite exceedingly polite.

 

“I’ve had to learn to live with my mistakes,”

She says, a brave look on her face, a martyr

Raising up her voice against the flaming stake.

The consummate tragedian, as if I hadn’t known

Would choose herself to immolate

With words that serve to conflagrate

The smoldering tinder of my conscience.

 

“Your life seems settled,” I hear myself declare,

Though neither of us fathoms what I mean.

 “I failed to understand something, I fear,”

She answers, though her face remains serene.

Her words and feelings are divorced,

The smile upon her face too forced

Not to impart the pain she seeks to hide.

 

 “I never thought I’d end life so alone,”

She looks beyond my presence with her gaze.

 I hear the drama in her words; the tone

Of pathos once more seeking center stage.

“And that was not your aim?” My words

Discharged toward her like sharp-edged shards,

Their aim to hurt her just as she’s hurt me.

 

“This life was not what I foresaw,” she says,

A shadow settling on her thoughtful face.

I sip my tea, survey the room. What vexes

Most, those simple things from memory’s trace;

A vase, a lamp, the bric-a-brac,

A Queen Anne chair’s incurvate back,

Once shared, they’ve lingered here without me.

 

We sit in matching chairs, their cushioned arms

Worn thin by years of living etched

Into their antique shapes like fossil forms,

A museum’s treasure cloistered for her guests.

“You had not thought you’d be alone?”

I hide the anger from my tone.

“I’d always thought…” she leaves off with a sigh.

 

She reaches for her tea, revealing hands

Age spotted, but with nails decorated

An unexpected claret, as if the sands

Of time were so easily abated

Through gratuitous acts.  “I’d thought…

I’d finally find the one I sought.

But my life’s done and I am still alone.”

 

She sips her tea and, silent, gazes at the wall,

Then turning, bends her body toward me,

An inviting gesture, one that I  recall

She used in conversation to convey

An intimacy with those with whom she talked,

In this case me, who needs must balk

At falling once again into old patterns.

 

She sips her tea once more and looks askance and

            says,

 

“You were a chapter of my life

I wanted to keep closed.

You left me; that was what you chose.

No one leaves me.”

 

Her smile, cordial, remains,

Even as its ardor wanes.

 

“You left for Europe,” I remind her.

“And met someone; he was an actor.”

 

“Your memory’s clearer than my own.”

 

“I read the papers here at home.”

 

“In Europe I was all alone

And he was Paris’ newest fad.

Our friends all said we had

To meet.”

 

“It did not last,” I mention.

 

She smiles, as if we shared a joke.

 “He couldn’t see beyond himself.

I finally awoke

And saw what he was really like.”

 

“And the  famous senator?” I ask

“You traveled with him coming back.”

 

“He was a dear man, wanting

Someone by his side

To help him raise his children,

 And provide

For them a home, assuage his grief.

His wife, you know, had died.

We stayed dear friends, but that was all.”

 

 “I wrote,” I say, “You never answered;

I called but you refused my call.”

 

She gazes through the window toward the sea.

“You left me; no one leaves me.”

 

 

A grandfather clock marks time monotonously,

Counting seconds as we sit in silence,

Knowing that we’ve reached an ominously

Threatening impasse, a chasm too immense

For speeches to undo the cost

Of that bright future we both lost,

While paying dearly for things left undone.

 

 “I’m off to Paris,” I say, “ to retire.”

“Good !” she claps. Her joy is unaffected.

We hold our gaze, as though we both conspire

To keep the loss we each feel undetected.

 Do her eyes begin to glisten?

Do I dare again to listen,

Now that we have put our history to rest?         

 

“I’ve been to Paris,” she reminds me.

Though why no one could guess.

“I could show it to you,” she adds, shyly.

What would I venture if I dared say yes?

I look away. There is no way.

But how to voice it, what to say?

However I respond will be too cruel.

 

“In truth I can’t afford to leave,” she says

In effort to save face, the ring of hollow

Words belied by history fixed in place.

“Local children come to learn piano

Or study algebraic functions.”

Despite the curious conjunction,

I marvel at her range of talents.

 

The clock’s chime echoes with a dying fall.

I plead my cowardly excuse to leave,

This time for good; the day’s late, after all.

But perhaps sonatas and equations,

Wonder on some student’s curious face,

Will have the power to erase

Her pain, while I sink further in despair.

 

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