Sydney Lea

April 10, 2015 Lea Sydney

Old Husband’s Tales


I’m one who tells old husbands’ tales, not wives’,
And the stories and I keep growing old together:
For instance, my friends and colleagues and family members
Have often heard how I got myself lost one night
In the deep Maine woods. Yet I speak of it year after year

In an effort to re-experience a fear,
Which it turns out I could only feel back then.
Today its charge is irretrievable. Gone.
But I mostly repeat the tale to myself, aware
All the while that it must end in disappointment,

That its only remnants are sensory: my ancient
Autumn comes back with a squabble of owls, a chime
Of tuneful water through beaver dams, and time
So sluggishly passing that I, both scared and impatient,
Tore many more limbs than I needed from nearby cedars

For the fire by which I sat for hours and hours.
Darkness had dropped so quickly it overtook me,
But at dawn, the sky would go pale in the east to guide me.
All these details my body still remembers,
Yet that knife-edge thrill in my soul has left no trace,

A duller kind of dread having taken its place.
Other kinds of darkness and lostness loom.
My children are having children just in time:
There are days when they’re all I’ll ever need, it seems.
Yet more and more in these later days I am,

As the poet famously said, the stuff of dreams.

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.