THE VOLUME OF HIS ABSENCE
Dear Lindsey, now the loneliness begins, that trough of emptiness just beneath your heart, canary caged to keep your pain singing. Leaf-like fossils of old neglect came long before him to scar those bars, mark your rocks. Since he left, you’ve been filling the void with meditation bells and proverbs, anything to lessen the whip that sears your loss. You slog through the days lazy, the way you approach circuit training, depressed there’s no respite from the volume of his absence. It rings like the cry of Nature’s ruin, like the mountain right before me, benefactor of wildflowers and those mushrooms hunted and sold to chef buddies. No longer harnessed, you’re flung into your future. Damaged and afraid, you don’t leave the stable. Virtue, resolve, a good brain to pray with, or beg— What does all that matter when what was once tandem is solo, silence flooding nothingness like an enemy, like a friend.
EVERYTHING ABOUT OUR HOUSE
You brought me an orchid, a Ram’s Head Lady Slipper,
and I managed not to kill it, like all
the others. In the wild,
it looks rich as purple brocade.
We saw them while hiking the Rabbit Ears Pass,
hunting for chanterelles.
Everything about our house, old and new,
speaks of you, and the panoramic country
we made our home: the Rocky Mountains,
Yampa River, our dirt drive lined
with those cottonwoods that make me sneeze.
I’m still moving through these tunnels
and underpasses, learning your death, reverberating
our song. Meet me sometime at our table made of pine.
Break bread with me then—
Make merry, drink my wine.
WE ALIGN THROUGH SKY-TIME
Respect the unmown grasses, each leaf the name of a decedent
written in sensual calligraphy. Respect the leaves’ velvet necks
bent under bare feet, as we stand languid, you without feet or body,
for what seems like the duration of a butterfly’s life.
Spellbound by blooming viburnum, we inhale its fragrance,
the sound an oboe would make if it flowered.
And there, the mountain that purples at sunset, and there, the lake
whose surface breeze makes blue trembling cellophane.
Sunset peaks, then wanes, spent as we are after lovemaking.
Perhaps what is brief is permanent, perhaps our lives
are one ongoing communal presence. Perhaps ancestry does not belong
to historians but sculpts our every move, our every breath—deep, clean.
Lindsey Royce’s poems have been published in many journals, including Aeolian Harp #8, #7 and #5; Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts; The Hampden-Sydney Review; The New York Quarterly; Poet Lore; and Washington Square Review. Her poems have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Royce’s first poetry collection, Bare Hands, was published in September of 2016, and her second collection, Play Me a Revolution, published in September of 2019, won second place for poetry in the 2020 Independent Publishers Book Awards.