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L A Rice Oct 2010
In my ancestral land  -
A land, you say, of no trees
But wind, and more wind -
You sleep and wake before me

Here, I sink into smooth cushions
And someone else’s words
And a purpled sky
That soothes the longing in me

Until I remember that it is
You I want to sink into,
You I want to hear, only you
I want to soothe me.
July 2010
L A Rice Oct 2010
(not While You Were in Ireland)

For you,
He Who Doesn’t Like Poetry,
Here’s a short one
That I vow I will not
Read aloud.

You are my
Inward breath,
The one I take
At the crest of every
Steep hill,
Ready to descend.

You are my
The one I release
When Elliott’s voice
Reminds me
Of another tenuous life.

You aren’t only there
Where you are,
But you are here
Where I am,
October 2010
L A Rice Aug 2010
Somewhere I have a photograph
of you: three, fat and
happy at Maryann’s table and
spreading your pudding dessert
onto the tablecloth, the messy artist
caught in the moment of creation.

I want to hold that picture and
breathe in again your proud fingers
suspended over the table, your eyes
already knowing what pleasure
you will bring to us, your laugh
sounding silently in the fixed frame.

I need to see you there, held in
the blues and browns and reds and
innocently unaware that one faulty
piece of your heart would weaken and
nearly give up when you were fifteen
and still laughing.
L A Rice Aug 2010
To tell any story of you I should begin with stone –
Marbles, granites, slates – in slabs and blocks so large
They surrounded the family plant like cold-faced
Soldiers, armed not to keep out, but to keep safe
The secret knowledge: how to turn function to art,
How to harvest beauty from earth’s dark home.

We could count on you to be part of our home.
After school days and weekends of shaping stone
You appeared at our table, wearing your appetite large
And wooing my sister until our brother’s blank face
(Your best friend’s cold face) blinked there was no safe
Way to have them both. Somehow, for you, the art

Was in the trying. At work, you created a new art
Cutting and carving miniature relief scenes – of home
And history and Greek goddesses in soft marble stone
Streaked pink and black – with callused hands larger
Than the finished pieces. My sister lowered her face
In refusal of that first gift.  Believing you were too safe,

She married someone else. You married, to be safe,
Someone who didn’t care to understand the delicate art
Of your labor. Soon, some chasm reached your home,
Splitting you in silence until you no longer were stone
But shards and pieces scattered at the bottom of a large
Abyss, unwhole. Your grief too hard for you to face,

You led your wife along a trail up to a rocky west face
Above a summer pool. Here, you thought, you were safe
To perfect an absolute stillness between you, a terrible art,
And somehow avenge the jagged cleavage in your home.
You struggled (the papers would later report) until stones
Slipped, hands unclasped, the space between grew large.

Like a pebble thrown, your wife’s body created no large
Ripples until shallow breath returned and she surfaced
Flailing, waving one unbroken arm to show she was safe.
But it was too late for you, whose new attempts at art
Had once again failed, and so you turned to go home
To become immovable, unreachable, a dumb stone.

At home, you recorded failures and defeats you faced
In large hurried script, writing to set forever in stone
One final success: a safe shot to the head, your newest art.
L A Rice Aug 2010
Perhaps they mean to stand side by side
In 1941. Friends forever one whispers
And ever comes the unspoken reply, a rote
Lesson for two who will bear each other
Up through disease, five children
(The last two a party’s legacy),
Two divorces, betrayal and *****,
Too many deaths. Perhaps they mean to
Stand together nearly sixty years later
In a kitchen too small to hold their lives
And whisper those words again.
L A Rice Aug 2010
After I give my leg to cancer
or break my back in a crash
or lose my faithful husband
you will arrive hoping to find
another albatross to wear
like jewelry so the neighbors
know your burden through this
very difficult time
but I will not
let you in for all the days I wasn’t
a bright scarf about your head
or some other beautiful thing
you were blessed with.
L A Rice Aug 2010
For Paul

He works a solid post of steel between
straight teeth and grinds against enamel. Songs
of ruthless youth careen in flats and sharps
off swollen tongue and crowd the winter air.

I see him coming off the half-pipe hard:
a clench of sinew floating on the edge.

He drops, one arm outstretched to catch the earth.
the other winging wildly skyward as
his songs become the splintered echoing
of fractured branches under heavy snow.
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