Sydney Lea

The Big Blow
June 29, 2019 Lea Sydney

The Big Blow

After the snow-soused April gale I wandered
along a ridgeline deer path, needing badly
to use my legs after my knee replacements

and before that, the tick-borne horror that nearly killed me.
This was my first hike there, or anyplace,
in months. It’s vanished, that old thoroughfare

for game: the blowdowns cross it like monstrous lace.
I zigged and zagged my way through, which did me no harm.
The downhills daunted me, though, the ground so slippery,

especially where lichen on ledge hid under the scrim.
And yet I could do it, while David, my schoolmate and friend,
lay in the earth: he, the champion wrestler,

he, the marathon-runner. I’m here. He’s gone.
We who knew and loved him will miss his wit,
his brain, his native to-hell-with-it frumpiness.

No need to trick yourself out if you look like that.
I’d descend by finding handholds. Despite the new knees,
I was far from the old to-hell-with-it cross-country rambler.

No matter, I kept on moving, inspecting each tree
I meant to reach for to see if its trunk had gone porous.
How strange it seemed that so much deadwood stood,

while so many mighty had fallen. The oaks. The beeches.
Their riven bodies lit up the forest like tinder,
slicing through a day suffused by gray.

Each split bole flamed and shone on its way to forever.

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.