The Picture by Sydney Lea

The Picture

––for our oldest daughter Erika

I found it in a box I sifted through
as I cleaned my office. How clear in mind, the time
you drew it nearly forty years ago.

From dawn to dark, a sort of dusk had prevailed,
the nightbirds up all hours. I’ve stumbled on
signs of ruthless slaughter on such a day,

intinction of snow and blood. I’ve pictured talons.
Not knowing what I felt, still I have sensed
some intricate change –without my witness– had happened.

Snow of course can offer other signs:
sweep of a grouse’s wing where it flushed and flew,
the raptor’s errant jabs mere blots to the side,

no blatancy of red on the cold white cover.
In any case, it was that kind of day when you held
the blue-green crayon as gently as a mother

might her child, your hand so small I could cry.
You frowned, and carefully drew three sides of a square,
and then, above, a pair of slanting lines,

to roof your house. Then swatches of sky. You glanced
sidelong at me: did I approve or not?
I knew that this was what you meant to ask.

I chuckled and hugged you. Forgive me: that was all.
Look at you since! A mother twice at once,
then once again in a home on a leafy knoll.

I consider these parallelograms you drew,
each with a cross inside, to form two windows,
which, you said, were there for me and you,

“For looking down the road.” The road was made
of lines as well, which, not quite parallel,
ran right from the doorway off the edge of the page.

I clutch you tight in mind as I did so far
back down that road, your picture done for then.
I pray your children’s dreams and landscapes are

as clean and sweet as you seemed to me that day,
a perfect figure underneath those Vs
–those harmless birds, or bird-abstractions– high

above the house in their lambent blue-green sky.

by Sydney Lea

Editor’s Note: This lovely narrative poem tells a story that every parent will understand.


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