Sydney Lea

But-cept
March 18, 2019 Lea Sydney

But-Cept

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.

Sydney Lea founded and for thirteen years edited New England Review. His thirteenth collection of poems, Here, is due from Four Way Books in late 2018, and Vermont’s Green Writers Press will publish The Music of What Happens: Lyric and Everyday Life, his collected newspaper columns from his years (2011–15) as Vermont poet laureate.