Wednesday, March 4, 2015

new poem

My friend Fleda Brown and I have been sharing poetry prompts. The following is what I did with her demand that I write a poem about a dried-up creek (which I made into a brook, a likelier name in upper New England), a golf ball, and a collapsing barn.

                      Not To Be Expected

One evening before Youth Fellowship I found
Some organ pipes on the floor, and knelt beside them,
Singing “Long Tall Sally” into one. Meanwhile,
I signed my name with a finger in the dust
Of the nubbled concrete. No one had ever done
These things at once. No one would ever do them.
That was a fusty basement room in St. Luke’s.

Why this recollection on the bank of this brook?
Less strange to remember a poem by Robert Frost,
Whose brook runs out of song and speed come June.
The one I’m looking at has never sung,
Has never run. It barely crawls at ice-out,
And by now, mid-May, its water’s long since gone.
What’s new? Not much. It does this every year.

Snow melts, the freshets feed it, then it dies.
The barn opposed across the way... Enough
Of Frost, irrelevant here, where a barn leans sideways
In a field of weeds. It needs refurbishment,
Which it won’t get. The sills are rotted, walls
All splayed like a doomed doe’s legs on ice.
Did someone stand in the mow, golf clubs in hand?

Unlikely. How on earth did that dimpled ball,
Egg-like below me, find its nest of dried algae?
Nothing’s to be expected, never was.
Consider, say, some so-called normal couple,
And ready yourself to hear of odd behavior.
One may raise chinchillas, one love tango.
We wonder, Who’d expect it?  Answer: no one.

I labored to be unique when I was young,
But what of my uncle, who’d listen to the Ring
Of the Niebelung while plucking his farmyard geese?
It was just what he did, not striving to be eccentric.
His brother, my father, served a tough stint as a soldier,
Regular army, Europe, World War II.
So why did he love to sing old navy tunes?

Search me. Search him. He hated all salt water.
I smell his bay rum now as I recall him,
And contemplate a ball in withered muck,
And note a certain barn, gap-toothed, neglected,
And conjure Robert Frost, a favorite author,
And remember trying to sing like Little Richard–
Now what, I ask you, what can be expected?


  1. Hello Sidney Lea,
    My favorite two things to say, as a younger person, were: 1) Who'd a thunk it? and 2) "Nothing ever happens but the unforeseen." In fact, in a variety of forms, they remain favorites, though I say them less and merely observe them more. Thank you for your generosity in sharing this new poem. I loved it. Pamela Wagner

  2. Dear Pamela:

    I hope you see this. I had missed it. I am most grateful for your generous and accurate comment. Be well, SL