Lynne Lawner

All the Photographs Were Lost

Only one remains that my mother left in the sun

So much she didn’t know she didn’t realize it would fade

In that old persons’ home with the melodious name

They took such good care of her she was their kewpie doll

The photo’s burned around the edges, it could be a halo,

Someday soon you won’t even see me as I don’t see her

She destroyed what she had made, at least the image of it

Leaving it in the sunlight carelessly just as she left me on Fiji once

When my eardrums had burst from the flight, she hadn’t known

You don’t fly when you’re sick, I was sick because I’d dived right in

The rolling waves then come out struck by fierce winds

I hadn’t known you don’t step off a plane into the ocean

We both knew so little and so little of each other.

It could be cloudiness shrouding my head in that picture

Or her own will to forget she spoke of often eloquently.


A Kind of Safety

If it weren’t New York I’d take my shoes off in the rain

said the office girl under the improvised wood canopy of construction

at the crosstown crossing where lights flashed any old color

but all saying halt and caution and watch out and don’t walk

with your shoes off, for God’s sake, under the rain

if you want to come home with your feet on, and still she was smiling

as if the predicted storm were her greatest adventure, easing the day

into the linear night when you can go everywhere with open arms.


“And So I Requested a Chair”

I had nowhere to go in my future city

Veering in from places

Not easy to get back to that summoned ineluctably,

And so I requested a chair

To be placed in the center of the art gallery

I had begun to feel at home in time and again

Particularly that day when some scenes were on display

Done in a contemporary mode that emptied them of their content

So that they seemed lyrical without singing, inviting while pushing one away,

And there, feeling the calm that comes over you when you stop journeying

Yet have not arrived and therefore contemplate with free eyes

Never otherwise revealed spatial truths about how others live

In all those densely and sparsely populated regions,

I stood my ground, a squatter in an interior

Until they approached to thrust me into the snow.



Lynne Lawner has published two collections of poetry, Wedding Night of a Nun (Atlantic Little-Brown) and Triangle Dream: Poems (Harper and Row). Her various awards include the Oscar Blumenthal Prize from Poetry magazine. She has been a resident at Yaddo, a Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute, and the recipient of many grants. She has published books on art with Rizzoli, Harry N. Abrams, and other houses. Many of her translations of Italian poetry have appeared over the years, including the volumes Painted Fire: Selected Poems of Maria Luisa Spaziani (Chelsea) and Letters from Prison of Antonio Gramsci (Harper’s, reprinted FSG).


Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap