Monday, May 23, 2022

Sydney Lea*

Sydney Lea served as Poet Laureate of Vermont from 2011 to 2015, and won the 2021 Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts from the Vermont Arts Council. His poetry collections include: To the Bone which was co-winner of the Poets' Prize in 1998, and Six Sundays Toward a Seventh (2012) the inaugural collection in the Poiema Poetry Series.

Poet Jane Hirshfield said of his thirteenth poetry collection ― Here (2019, Four Ways Books) ― “Sydney Lea has always been a poet equally eloquent and wide-eyed before reality. This self-aware book of experience, stock-taking, and memory finds him just now, just here, a person still hopeful in the face of it all, a poet at the height of his powers.”

The following poem first appeared in AGNI and is from the collection No Doubt the Nameless (2016, Four Ways Books).

Milton’s Satan

Diabolical heat for this time of year.
There’s the whir and hiss of my fan.
A digital clock blinks on its table.
Self-will is pulsing:
I ache to fly off and find the last of our children,
gone too far away to college.
The nest is empty. It’s burned. The ceiling

of her room still shows her poster for Some Like It Hot.
It’s shriveling after long years
when Monroe looked down on a herd of plush deer
and other mild creatures
now ragged with age. I imagine imagination
might cool my soul: I wrestle to mind
a gentle meadow dotted with flowers,

the checkered shade of a hardwood stand in fall,
a small brook’s ice-jeweled pools,
and last, an unmarred quilt of snow
on our cellar bulkhead.
Such willful visions won’t hold. The meadow is scorched
and tunneled by rodents, parasites thrive
in the trees, mosquitoes will hatch from the streambed.

The snow looks pure. Mercury laces its flakes.
Her absence is bodily ache.
It throbs. It scalds. There are reasons to think of Satan,
his imperious will,
its ruinous conflagrations. Which way I fly,
the poet’s devil claims, is hell.
Satan says, Myself am hell.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Sydney Lea: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.