How could I have known I would need to remember your laughter,
Lauren K. Alleyne
the way it ricocheted—a boomerang flung
from your throat, stilling the breathless air.
How you were luminous in it. Your smile. Your hair
tossed back, flaming. Everyone around you aglow.
How I wanted to live in it those times it ignited us
into giggles, doubling us over aching and unmoored
for precious minutes from our twin scars—
the thorned secrets our tongues learned too well
to carry. It is impossible to imagine you gone,
dear one, your laugh lost to some silence I can’t breach,
from which you will not return.
for Fay Botham (May 31, 1968–January 10, 2021)
Notes on the poem:
“My dear friend and fellow Gemini, Fay Botham, lost her battle with depression in 2021. I wrote this poem, trying to reconcile that reality with one of my favorite things about her: her joyful, full-throated laughter. We laughed in and through tears, joy, pain, and random hilarity. We snorted. We were ridiculously loud about it, which made us laugh even more. I miss her presence in this world. This poem is dedicated to her memory.”
—Lauren K. Alleyne
Where is the Bee—
Where is the Blush—
Where is the Hay?
Ah, said July—
Where is the Seed—
Where is the Bud—
Where is the May—
Nay—said the May—
Show me the Snow—
Show me the Bells—
Show me the Jay!
Quibbled the Jay—
Where be the Maize—
Where be the Haze—
Where be the Bur?
Here—said the Year—
In the Yellowstone
Little pin-prick geysers, spitting and sputtering;
Little foaming geysers, that spatter and cough;
Bubbling geysers, that gurgle out of the calyx of morning glory pools;
Laughing geysers, that dance in the sun, and spread their robes like lace over the rocks;
Raging geysers, that rush out of hell with a great noise, and blurt out vast dragon-gulps of steam, and, finishing, sink back wearily into darkness;
Glad geysers, nymphs of the sun, that rise, slim and nude, out of the hot dark earth, and stand poised in beauty a moment, veiling their brows and breasts in mist;
Winged geysers, spirits of fire, that rise tall and straight like a sequoia, and plume the sky with foam:
O wild choral fountains, forever singing and seething, forever boiling in deep places and leaping forth for bright moments into the air,
How do you like it up here? Why must you go back to the spirits of darkness? What do you tell them down there about your little glorious life in the sun?
Green and blue and white, it is a flag
for Florida stitched by hungry ibises.
It is a paradise of flocks, a cornucopia
of wind and grass and dark, slow waters.
Turtles bask in the last tatters of afternoon,
frogs perfect their symphony at dusk—
in its solitude we remember ourselves,
dimly, as creatures of mud and starlight.
Clouds and savannahs and horizons,
its emptiness is an antidote, its ink
illuminates the manuscript of the heart.
It is not ours though it is ours
to destroy or preserve, this the kingdom
of otter, kingfisher, alligator, heron.
If the sacred is a river within us, let it flow
like this, serene and magnificent, forever.
I will wait, said wood, and it did.
Ten years, a hundred, a thousand, a million—
It did not matter. Time was not its measure,
Not its keeper, nor its master.
Wood was trees in those first days.
And when wood sang, it was leaves,
Which took flight and became birds.
It is still forest here, the forest of used-to-be.
Its trees are the trees of memory.
Their branches—so many tongues, so many hands—
They still speak a story to those who will listen.
By only looking without listening, you will not hear the trees.
You will see only hard stone and flattened landscape,
But if you’re quiet, you will hear it.
The leaves liked the wind, and went with it.
The trees grew more leaves, but wind took them all.
And then the bare trees were branches, which in their frenzy
Made people think of so many ideas—
Branches were lines on the paper of sky,
Drawing shapes on the shifting clouds
Until everyone agreed that they saw horses.
Wood was also the keeper of fires.
So many people lived from what wood gave them.
The cousins of wood went so many places
Until almost nobody was left—that is the way
Of so many families. But wood was steadfast
Even though it was hard from loneliness. Still,
I will wait, said wood, and it did.
Why Do You Love the Poem?
For the sentiment. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the sentiment.
For the message. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the message.
For the music. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the music.
For the spirit. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the spirit.
For the intelligence. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the intelligence.
For the courage. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the courage.
For the inspiration. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the inspiration.
For the emotion. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the emotion.
For the vocabulary. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the vocabulary.
For the poet. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the poet.
For the meaning. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the meaning.
For what it stands for. — Then you don’t love the poem you love what it stands for.
For the words. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the words.
For the syntax. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the syntax.
For the politics. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the politics.
For the beauty. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the beauty.
For the outrage. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the outrage.
For the tenderness. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the tenderness.
For the hope. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the hope.
For itself. — Then you love the poem.