sydney lea

Doubt

Something wakes me in the west of Montana.
Mouse in the hallway? Wind down the mesa?

Rented room, moonshine sinister.
I feel old, I have to tend my bladder,

And so I swing my feet to the floor,
Swing them, awkward, to the ice-smooth floor.

It’s not its bareness, its vivid void,
That jolts me cold in the stark frank light

But a phrase that comes: A patch of bare floor….
That clutch of words: it somehow appalls.

I shudder and settle back in the clothes
Till I think other words, too grandiose—

Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?
But it’s January here in my body.

Not only from loneliness. Shame as well
That the light of a life can so quickly be quelled

By the darkness behind this other light.
It’s thousands of miles from toilet to cot.

I’ve come out here to try the fishing.
I can’t seem to care if I ever go fishing,

Or do much again of anything.
The world’s on the cusp of vanishing

When I suddenly have odd company;
I think of John, back in the country

Of verdant Vermont, of his brother who beat
Their likeable father all but dead

Then shot himself, the Oxy-Contin
Scorching his veins-or what was left of them.

John’s wife was our storekeeper’s youngest daughter.
She ran away with some newcomer lawyer

And now John restores old cars “instead
Of talking too much with the Man in My Head.

"Ten minutes of that and I’ll make myself sick,”
Or so he tells me. To whom will I talk?

I have no skills, not a lonely one.
Better to foul myself where I’ve lain,

To stay in bed under fetid blankets.
That open floor: I don’t dare chance it.

Better to gibber “Old Mother Hubbard”
Or mouth this scrap of blues I conjure

—Sugar for sugar, salt for salt.
If you don’t love me it ain’t my fault—

Than keep talking to no one, no one myself,
Or still worse, to my own Man in the Head.

Better to loll in self-pity, Lord,
Than step across that bare patch of floor.

—Holter Lake,Montana, September 2004

– sydney lea