Sydney Lea

Alone at 77 & I Arrive at the Scene
November 22, 2021 Lea Sydney

Alone at 77


Unhungry, he cracks a single egg.
Were she not away,
the two of them would as ever applaud
its yolk’s deep orange,
scoff at the pallor of store-bought.


Now he blandly notes some color.
Were she right here,
they’d praise their good fortune
at their little village’s having
a minuscule bank with a cheery teller.


She raises free-range hens
and sells the eggs with bold yolks.
He ought to feel joy at all of this.
The one daily train groans down the valley.
Eight hours will bring it back up.


There’s a certain way his wife
can cock her hip. It stirs him,
as does the familiar scent of her skin
when she comes in from cold like today’s.
She won’t come in today.


He’s planted himself in the kitchen rocker.
What does a mere egg’s lucency do
against that one plate in the sink?
In his older age, retired, self-indulgence
means leaving the toilet seats up.


She’ll call this evening. The day gapes.
They hiked the lesser Dolomites
on their honeymoon forty years back.
This morning, he briefly brightened
to discharge small chores.


He fed the same old chickadees
and stoked the woodstove, not once but twice,
and washed that plate, though it wasn’t dirty.
She’s gone away
for another full week.


When they both were young,
her rs were childlike. He loved that.
He beholds the splendent shadows
stretched long on snow
by a vivid late-winter sun.


Hardwood buds grow red on the ridges.
They do that each year of course.
He puts his elbows on the table,
his fingers to his temples,
his weeping unheard but by him alone.






I Arrive at the Scene


All of a sudden, a crowd,
most of us pretty much strangers,
which seems to me– well, strange:
our village and others here
in this stretch of valley are tiny.
But John, who’s been the chief
of the volunteer fire department
for years, shows up exactly
as the ambulance crew appears.


I do know John. We live
on the same back road. He’s quiet
and decent. He sees what we’ve seen,
blood on the gravel to her,
tangled up in the weeds.
Roof-down, that’s her old crate
in the brook. There’s a gallon of milk
in a bottle, standing straight up
on the tar. The glass didn’t break.
A miracle. I’ve heard


someone say about our town,
it’s a place where all of us fight
and all of us love our neighbor.
Everything in her sack
was strewed or squashed or smashed,
except the jug of milk,
which she bought at a neighborhood dairy,
and that’s why it came in glass,
not a grocery store container,
the waxy kind. One man
thinks the woman came to his church
a time or two, then stopped.
The EMTs do something
to her skull with a sort of sleeve
made out of metal and cloth
before they load her up.
Does anyone know where she lives,
or lived? John shoots me a look,


not good. She might have done better
if she were made of glass.
I know that’s stupid. I’m thinking
a bunch of ridiculous jabber,
but I’m also thinking about
my family, how bad things happen
not just to bad people. Of course,
that lady is a stranger–
so good or bad? Who knows?


I want to be asleep
or learning to play piano
or oiling the .32-.20
my uncle left to me,
though it’s not deer season. Besides,
I don’t hunt them in my old age.
I wish I’d been doing something
that wouldn’t have let me arrive
in the first place at what’s here before me.

Whatever it was, it would suit me.

A former Pulitzer finalist in poetry, Sydney Lea served as founding editor of New England Review and was Vermont’s Poet Laureate from 2011 to 2015.  In 2021, he was presented with his home state’s highest distinction of its kind, The Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. He has published twenty-four books: two novels, six volumes of personal and three of critical essays, and sixteen poetry collections, most recently What Shines (2023) His latest book of personal essays is Such Dancing as We Can (2024). His second novel, Now Look, was published last month.