Mercedes Lawry is the author of Small Measures, which won the Vachel Lindsay Poetry Prize from Twelve Winters Press, and three chapbooks, the latest, In the Early Garden with Reason, which was selected by Molly Peacock for the 2018 WaterSedge Chapbook Contest. Her poetry has appeared in such journals as Poetry, Nimrod, and Prairie Schooner. Mercedes’s work has been nominated six times for a Pushcart Prize and her fiction was a semi-finalist in The Best Small Fictions 2016. Additionally, she’s published stories and poems for children. She lives in Seattle and her twitter account is @mercwrites.
She was everywhere,
her work, her life,
her heavy eyebrows,
the story of her pain
and broken love.
We thought her paintings
zeroed in on our souls,
the body as emblem,
as animal. The violence
looped among her bones.
in the distance, brilliant
colors chittered and hissed.
We were eager supplicants,
If I had stayed with the banjo girl, I might still be whole.
That girl playing on her tilted porch taught me
everything about sorrow. I knew the backbone
and inside the mouth and all the soft places
between toes. The birds came around more easily,
whatever the sky’s blush. I could be trusted there,
not to take things lightly, not to betray
my old darlings or those gathered around for scraps.
Her voice could take you straight down
into a grave and back out again.
She could lay beside you on the soft moss
by the creek and make nothing at all an effort.
There’s not too many voices that can tear
your heart into thin strips and put them back
without showing a seam. I’m swallowed
by neon now and there’s not a simple truth in sight.
I’m an off-key old fool, growing crooked and tired
in a too-late version of my life, a sorry, sour note
with nothing left except amens.