Lara Payne

Three Poems

Early Spring, All Month Long

On a clean-the-yard day, we spy flakes float-falling,
almost like the end of a wish, one that travelled
miles, one that discarded its seed last fall. Think ash,

leaves burning after winter. The neighbor
names them snow, a word we have almost
forgotten. We run until our cheeks glow. Warm

in sunlight, shivering in shadows. War against uncertainty,
or embrace change, we can’t decide. Daffodils linger
as we count the moth-white trees along the roadway,

outnumbering the pink of the magnolias lifting
their champagne flutes. Watch the storm blow in,
deep grey overtaking the 100 acre sky. Can we come here

every day? Will this be our new home?
This between time, this leaf-buds not frozen,
but not changing, time. This run into sunlight

before it flees time? A stirring in the blood,
an inability to remain still. Deep red branches
suggest bloom, seem eternal until we remember

how a green-edged horizon weaves a season.
Whisper laziness, try to remember last summer,
while reading notice of this year’s delayed arrival.

Even the frogs are confused, no longer hiding in their pools
of winter-melt, wearing their desire barely contained
in vibrating balloons that shatter the quiet.



Petals drop from the quince, deep pink, each one
a bit perfect, even at the end of its usefulness. We humans
once squeezed every possible use out of our surroundings.
Now, excess and planned obsolescence are so endemic
that we forget to notice the food growing in our own yards.
Once, I stayed in a hostel in Greece surrounded by lemon trees
that blossomed and fruited all year long. I thought I’d found heaven
or close, lying in a hammock with my new-found love:
the scent of lemon blossoms. Bees wove giddy paths
above and around me. No one picked the lemons,
I asked if I was allowed, and then did. Within a day,
travelers from Australia, Bulgaria, Algeria, and elsewhere
were taking turns walking the pebble and snail-crushed path
into town to buy sugar and vodka. What else did we need
but a sharp knife and the fruit hanging all around us?
A festive feeling overtook the place,
even amongst the non-drinkers.
The fasting season was almost over,
though none of us partook in that, our austerity
formed by the limits of our daily budget. Twenty years later,
I still wonder what would have happened if I had stayed.
Who would I love, now? Who would bring me daily offerings,
drawings smudged with a bit of jam, stick figure legs,
an awareness of hands, each finger drawn, grins wide,
a wealth of rainbows and flying things. A part of me still expects
a moment to come in which I’ll once again spread all my belongings
on a white-sheeted cot bed, discard the excess,
and walk to the next village, wondering how long it will be
until I find someone who speaks my language.


Equinox, Maryland

Tell me again about equal, equality, equinox.
We are balanced, all of us, in our own skin,
on land or water held to this planet, this planet held to the sun,
and to the sun we give half of ourselves. Is equal really half,
and where goes the other? We spin into light, into darkness.
Stones allow just the right light, today.

The moon seemed full, days ago, as we rode home through the almost autumn night
it rose orange, heavy, and unbelievably huge, almost frightening.
My body knows something about heaviness, and languor. It has been two days
since she nursed. I’m heavy, a bit hot. My dreams blur. Sunrise finds me covered
in dew and fog. Mist and hours of grey, how tuned
to the seasons are we? Predictable. I wax and wane. I am unforgiving,
of others, though mostly of myself. Afternoon a trumpet blaze of blue

that heralds fall. All the moods of the four seasons in one day.
Oh, to embrace it all. To rush out the door
into the vibrant air, to laugh or maybe cry. To feel intensely
to reach the end of the day exhausted, lucky enough to be fed, to be safe
to enter a bed that supports you, and to dream. I am greedy, impatient,
fickle. I don’t know how to love for a long time. Yet I do, I do
love, I am unnerved by it. A desire for constancy, to be faithful.
The heart of the sun is unforgiving. In the center all that may be the sun:
a heart that seems visible, the core, the most pure. Solar compressed.
We love that which may destroy us.



Lara Payne teaches creative writing in Maryland and DC public schools, and at the University of Maryland and George Washington University. Her poems have appeared in Switched-on-Gutenberg, Lines + Stars, the Mom Egg Review, and SWWIM. One of her poems won a 2018 Moving Words award and was exhibited on Arlington Transit buses. She has a small but productive front yard garden, and enjoys creating things with her two daughters.