Lynda Self



The mark of Southern summers whose heat swells

the hard green kernels, draws from them

their cones of color. The blooms themselves frivolous—

the tiny petals no more than ruffled bits of tissue

staining car hoods and sidewalks after summer rain.


It is July as I cross from Main onto Spring Street

where the trees once more have burst into a gaudy pink.

Memory somersaults to childhood.  Summer not interim

but stasis—months seemingly passed on the front steps,

caught in an illusion of rescue. Days whose sole intensity

converged in blooms alive with girlish fancy. The twinge

now in my chest, the longing for redress for the child

I once was—always too hopeful, too willing to wait

on the front steps of a street where no traffic ever passed.


For three years now, the one we planted here has reneged,

withheld from us the favor of its flowers—their color just a memory, 

a plastic ribbon tied to a limb.  Altitude, perhaps.  The winters

too cold, sabotaging the first bout of spring with onslaughts

of snow. Or phosphate, inadequate in this mountain soil.


This fall, when its leaves turn the colors of citrus fruit, I will

kneel at its base and scratch a girdle round its roots.  There

I will blend bone meal with gritty dirt. Come June, I will wait

like the child on the front steps in expectation of its bloom.





                       "Maybe it was just the usual September melancholy,

                         made unfamiliar by circumstances. . . ."

                                     —John Banville, The Book of Evidence


I wait for those chill days highlighted by the sun's indifference,

wasting leaves mingled with pine straw,

the redolence of decay in soil upturned for planting—

not these rainsoaked days, grass rangy with neglect,

blooms of coneflowers and zinnas asag from heavy water.


I see myself suffused with autumn's grace.

Face flushed with exertion, each day granted purpose

by a calendar now adrift in time.  Even idleness

somehow hallowed—the pleasure of late sleep enriched

by coffee on the deck and the cool air against my face.


Meanwhile, I sit inside, a book lying idle in my lap,

and listen to the rush of rain on the leaves.  At times

I rise from the chair beside the window, force myself

to walk the dogs even though it's wet.  Tomorrow perhaps

if the sun dries out the water on the deck, I will sit

outside and watch the last of the hummingbirds, the whirr

of their wings obscuring the lethargy of the day.

Retired after a career of teaching high school and college in Norfolk, Virginia, Lynda Self now resides in the mountains of Western North Carolina.  Her poems have appeared in The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, The New England Review, Southern Humanities Review, The Threepenny Review, and Innisfree Poetry Journal.  Recent poems will appear in forthcoming issues of The Sow's Ear Poetry Review, Confrontation, and North Carolina Literary Review.



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