Literary Yard

Search for meaning

‘A Painting of Sorts’ and other poems

By: Edward Lees

A Painting of Sorts

Rippled manganese
Like a path to the horizon
Paraiba tourmaline
Deepening to sapphire
Such slight difference
Between vacant sea and sky
Hundreds of raw umber coconuts
At every stage of decomposition
Some sprouting
Derelict stillness everywhere
A solitary figure
On flecked alabaster sand
Sharp with cloudy coral
Pale crab-packs
Amid liquid glass
Arched gradient greens
Desperate roots
Sieged on all sides
Lizards in dusky shade
So much heat
Such burning defiance


My daughter loved the magic hour.
She would race for photos
down to Beccles beach
when the sky began to glow.
I felt time slow

as the day lost itself
in warm light
to join similar evenings
from years before
in a hue uproar.

The sun behind me,
everything is edged
in fine detail.
She sat by dune grass,
standing like cut glass.

Sometimes when I run,
this light finds me.
Wild nettles halo,
back-lit leaves pulse green –
it is an electric scene

in which I feel myself grow
and separate
from the moment,
losing focus in the glare,
drifting in recalled air.


I grew up around trees:
pine, osage, and spruce.
They were mostly street names,
in W. Philly,
unlike the Japanese maple
planted by my parents,
bloodied daily by sun (you wouldn’t know,
it was so composed).

Then came the unruly ancients
towering at Ickworth House
where we would later weekend,
that in dented armor bark imposed
their magnitude onto us.
Especially yew,
transuding its dark omens
and determined dominion.

That stubborn strength,
daughter, hides inside
our young birch in the back too.
I see it coming up from its roots,
though outwardly pale and thin,
with skin scored in parallel lines,
like your legs,
arms, and insides.

A Tree

The loudest places can be the most lost
like an overpass on a highway
which, when walked, reveals the forgotten shore
of a parallel river, forlorn
and in need of care.
A hidden tree triumphs there,
unseen by the drivers who pass by.
The city’s self is not self-aware.

This river leads upstream to a dam
where noisy water foams
at the mouth, biting reflexively.
Above the dam, the water pools, calm
as the boathouses the cars come to see.
The steady water drifts by, then overflows
in a cohesive descent, before breaking
apart in turbulence that is veiled initially.

The next day, a Thanksgiving parade is nearby.
How the people group and flow
so thickly before scattering near the end!
I’ve come to watch and then notice,
behind a bend, a group with signs aloft:
“Feminists are Whores” and
“Jesus or Hellfire”. They shout.
The loudest people can be the most lost.


Do you remember when,
as a child on a hot summer day,
you would enter a pool whose temperature
was as perfect as the memory?
And in that moment all desire to dive
and rip through the water vanished.
Instead of imposing your will,
treating it like an obstacle
to be pushed to one side,
you drifted in the feeling of pure connection,
of not knowing where you ended.
The sense of your limits were removed,
and you extended out into the blue
as a reflection of its own configuration.
No moving was needed to know.
The measuring of more and less and our redress
like osmosis stopped.
I hope my daughters will find that peace,
but for now they try to assert themselves
and stand apart. They have outfits and make-up
that announce where they start
and one has scars from battles
on the front-line of her skin.
The other one’s are hidden.

Our Memoir

Anne Baker was a British writer
born in 1914, just before World War I.
She is still alive today,
one hundred and eight years later,
full of stories of Egypt and India.
When she was four, perhaps she met
another British woman,
Sarah Gardiner, just in time to hear
her reminisce. Born in 1812, Sarah
might have conveyed early memories
of Johanna Perryman,
born in Buckinghamshire in 1713,
ahead of the South Sea Bubble and
the creation of Liechtenstein
within the Holy Roman Empire.
We assume the majesty of our dominion,
in a stretch to Mesopotamia
that seems to weight our meaning,
but it is not so much as all that.
Just three more people brings us to
the battle of Agincourt and then two
to Genghis khan and another twelve,
like his apostles, to Christ.
A small wedding, say of sixty, takes us
from the start of Sumer to plans for Mars.
For each one, over seven hundred thousand
ghosts watch through the planet’s eye,
thinking how quickly empires end,
how swiftly we flash by.

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