Mercedes Lawry

bird on branch

Mercedes Lawry is the author of three chapbooks, the latest, In the Early Garden with Reason,was selected by Molly Peacock for the 2018 WaterSedge Chapbook Contest. Her poetry has appeared in such journals as Poetry, Nimrod, and Prairie Schooner and she’s been nominated several times for a Pushcart Prize. Her book, Vestiges, was released in 2022 by Kelsay Books. Her collection Small Measures will be published in 2024.

Wednesday Shift

Tina’s on the phone to Social Services, voice rising
as she makes it clear she’s had enough.
She wants to see her kids. It’s been months.
Caseworkers change, nobody responds, the usual drill.
She’s doing laundry, her belongings all over
the table and chairs. I brought in socks
and she snatched up several pairs, to give
to the guys, she says, thumping around the room
with her offerings. I don’t know where Tina sleeps.
She has blankets. I deserve to see my kids! she shouts.
Next thing her head’s down on the table and she’s sobbing.
We all look sideways at her. Should I go over, give her
a hug? I’m not trained for this.
Minutes later she’s done with that phase
and back to scrambling and folding and clucking
at those who’ve done her wrong which is everyone
at one time or another. But this is her familiar,
these people who’ve been damaged by everything
you can imagine and worse. I brought in socks today,
and 18 hardboiled eggs. Everyone needs socks
and soon they’re gone, as are the eggs.

Woman in a Chair

First published in The Lake (UK)

Woman in a chair
glancing, as light strikes
her hands clasped
in her lap, not revealing
concern or contentment.

He painted her, telling us
little, although much
can be imagined, out the window,
next to the spindly vase.

We see and don’t see
the faded gray dress,
the soft yellow curtains.

There she sat and he saw her
in the room,
in his mind,
and when he smeared
paint on canvas,
a series of gestures,
careful then released,
a crow guttered past.

Perhaps emptiness,
which can’t be detected
in the elusive shadows.
Perhaps mourning.

Killing Time

First published in Poetry Scotland

The week tips south
into sloth and lassitude.
I stained the new porch,
now it glistens. I could
move the ladders back,
tackle the gutters, but I give in
to my lazy ways, thumb
through books, check the weather,
wonder at how I can know
my time is limited and yet
dawdle and moon-stare
at birds, watch the wasp
batter at each window,
neither a hero nor a fool
until I open the door wide
and she heads out on a crisp
breeze, only to return
to fling herself at the glass
off and on, off and on
for three stuttering days.

The Patience of Trees

First published in Offcourse

The trees are abject
from the summer drought.
Brown and dusty
like a held breath
conserving every throttle
of life. There is
sorrow in the stasis.
An occasional breeze
riffles a bowing branch
where a lone crow
wobbles and shrieks,
as if summoning rain.