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Heterodox, and: The Inverted World, and: Pallid
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But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore. . . .

—Luke 12:7

A and B would scarcely remember
When they weren't friends A knows B
Once had cancer His hair came back
After the grim course of chemo His doctors
Were all persuaded they'd licked B's disease

B's tall and A sufficiently shorter
That not until lately has he noticed B's round
Of pattern baldness B's hair is back
But out of sight A kneels on the ground

The cancer's back too God if you're there
A whispers and truly know how to work wonders
Let B's hair again grow normal natural
Let it naturally come that shininess
Like mine This is no conventional prayer

Is it wrong A wonders as ever conventional
To beg with his being's every fiber
That B may be thus strangely blessed
Plain baldness now and so suddenly crucial

The Inverted World

So there I was, just ducking under a wire
—harmless, a telephone wire—that last night's storm
had slung low over our driveway. I caught my wheels
downside of a bank I couldn't even see
because of the brush, which by now had gone withered, brown.
There wasn't a thing I could do. It felt so slow,
that rolling over. I watched a small bird flit
across the road ahead, backlit by sun.

One mammoth oak must once have been struck by lightning,
to judge by the flare of scar just under the crown,
bright orange, but ringed with black by shock and heat.
I'd never noticed before, and then again
I'd never looked upward through a windshield that way.
Of course I had plenty of time as well to curse
myself for being stupid. And yet I didn't.
I heard another voice—no, I can't say

a voice, but something (don't ask me what or why)
insisted right along on something else.
My garage friend Cory came with wrecker and cable,
put my wheels back under, and set things right.
Soon I detected some lack, some hunger, it seemed.
What may it have been? Much later, it's hard to tell,
and if I try, no doubt I'll tell it wrong,
the whole affair still strange as the strangest dream.

Did I fleetingly disremember what age must bring?
Did I really lose sight of friends who'd either died
or were on their way to dying? Could I have watched
that bird or that evening sun, which floated in
to soften the woods? I think I pictured my wedding,
so lucky but decades old, as if it were now.
The world in those instants appeared somehow to get better
by way of concurrent vision, recall, and forgetting,

and of being, however briefly, upside down.


for my wife, from Lake Bled

Yesterday my Slovene friend,
dear Marjan, took me out in the country
to an amphitheater fashioned by nature
from palest marble. He wanted to show me
a second-century petroglyphic
Roman rendition of Mithras's bull.
The monument gleamed, a sensation no doubt.
But I looked on listless, as a lilac dove
hopped stone to stone, each one as white

as this page I ponder. Now coasting swans
on the lake below show a different pallor
from paper or boulder or alpine snow.
I can't even render absence of color.
Blank? Clean? Ivory? Wan?
My words are black. It's all I can make them.
What value in them if we're not together
with these sights and bird-sounds and countless greens
of mountain spring? My banalities gather.

It's such a waste, I whisper, and flinch
as a brown kite skims, all wing and talon,
across the water, its shadow a menace
that flushes some ducks. Their feathers rattle.
My wasted witness. I'll soon be home,
but no account of mine will make
the things I saw and heard seem true,
or what on sensing them I felt,
any more than these forced lines will tell

how terribly I needed you.

Sydney Lea  

Sydney Lea is Vermont's poet laureate. Recent books...

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