Sydney Lea

March 18, 2019 Lea Sydney


I recall not wanting my oldest son
To quit saying upslide down. The charms
Of children’s speech can’t be gainsaid.

His little brother, told to behave,
Would shout, “I am! I am being have!”
My own little brother’s been gone for an age.

Who used but-cept for except as a kid.
The shock of his death at 36–
Well, I still may see some random person,

Who in speaking displays a facial movement
That brings him back– then sends him away.
That blighted young man, I don’t need to say,

At one time was two young parents’ baby.
I’ve lived both long and, it now seems, quickly.
Our grandsons and -daughters have their own locutions,

Endearing, beguiling. I’d like to lock them
In place until I’m no longer here,
To have their childhood argot endure,

Language a means to wondrous reference,
Not to what’s aptly called a sentence.
There’s pleasure of course in what I recall,

But-cept wistfulness suffuses it all.

A former Pulitzer finalist and winner of the Poets’ Prize, Sydney Lea served as founding editor of New England Review and was Vermont’s Poet Laureate from 2011 to 2015.  He is the author of 23 books, the latest “Seen from All Sides: Lyric and Everyday Life,” essays; fourteen of these volumes are poetry collections, the most recent of which is Here (Four Way Books, NYC, 2019). In 2021, he was presented with his home state of Vermont’s most prestigious artist’s distinction: the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.