Sydney Lea

Of Course
September 25, 2017 Lea Sydney

Of Course


If I wake at 3, ephemerality
Is leitmotif.  Small wonder in that, of course:
Tempus fugit. The years go hurtling by.
Like any other bromides, these became
What they are for their truth.  It’s only a vapor,

Say, that version of me who poked fun at a game
Called “Barnyard Bingo” at a Tupperware demonstration.
Tupperware, of all things!  A woman named Claire
Was the hostess, single mom scratching for cash in the ‘60s,
And the single un-mind-altered person there.

To us self-styled rebels, she seemed a fossil. Of course.
We were bent on changing what we deemed a fucked-up old nation
Into what it should be.  Above the Tupperware prattle,
Otis Redding announced a matchless sadness
From a record player with up-to-date stereo.

We believed the floor where we boogied was shaking with promise.
I can’t remember the rules of Barnyard Bingo,
But I do recall how my old friend Peter quick-stepped
My way, and squawking like a territorial chicken,
Made as if to peck me. I managed a hip-check

That knocked him onto a cushion next to Muffin,
Handsome black neighbor supplied with an unlikely nickname
Because he worked as a baker. He found our shenanigan
A riot. Of course. He hurled himself up from the divan,
High-fived me, grinned, and woozily plopped back down.

Where’s that deft, hip-checking punk? What happened
To the seven-year-old who, seeing a hornet land
On his T-shirt sleeve, used an index finger to flick
The nasty bug across a picnic table
Onto the wrist of his favorite playmate Eddie?

Eddie went wide-eyed, less with pain than surprise
And blurted Jesus Christ. His Bible-pious
Father then cuffed the kid’s neck. Of course. Those boys–
Where are they now, and Peter, Muffin, Claire?
And why are such random things, so meaningless, still

A part of me? Of course these are just some of thousands.
Why not more recent events, like the death of Bill,
Another old pal, mere days ago? But these doldrums
Will die themselves, of course. It can’t be 3
In the morning forever.  Of course it can’t, I repeat.

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.