Family Scripture (and other poems)

Family Scripture

It’s better not to know.
If you knew, how would you stand it?

It’s better not to cry.
If you start, how would you stop?

It’s better not to feel.
If you feel, you might tell.

It’s better not to tell.
Secrets keep us safe

It’s better not to ask.
If we answered, you’d be sorry.

All you need to know is
It’s better not to know.

Tom Thumb Wedding Photo, 1956

Just turned seven
I am singing
in an itchy turquoise sequined
evening gown
clutching a bouquet of rosebuds,
ham-scented by their sojourn
in the fridge.

I am not the bride
but the second singer
in this end-of-first-grade rite 
and I love my song 
Because you come to me
with naught save love
though I don’t know 
what kind of love that is.

I do know my Aunt Stokes
stitched me this dress,
Daddy brought home the roses,
and Mother baked the biscuit
that put the shine
on my patent leather shoes. 

In Passing

So  
    my 
         mother 
                     and I 
         were in 
    the 
one
    depart
          ment 
                    store 
          in my 
    home
town
    and 
          we met 
                    my 
          general 
    science 
teacher
    and 
          her 
                  daughter 
         coming 
   down
stairs
   as 
         we 
                  were 
          going 
   up. 
Up 
    to 
         where 
                    I 
          used
   to 
buy 
   chubbies 
         in 
                  the 
          kids’ 
   depart
ment
   and 
         where 
                     I 
          now
   proudly 
wore 
   a 
          nine
              which 
          I 
   hoped 
would 
   be 
          a 
               seven 
          maybe
   even 
a 
   five 
          before
                     I 
          got 
   married.
And 
    Joy
          Rice, 
                  my 
          former 
   teacher 
said, 
   by 
          way 
                of 
          hello, 
   Isn’t 
life 
   better 
          than 
               anything?

Author / Ilustrator

  • George Ella Lyon’s recent poetry collections include She Let Herself Go, Many-Storied House and Voices from the March on Washington, co-written with J. Patrick Lewis. A freelance writer and teacher, Lyon is particularly interested in the poetry of witness. She served as Kentucky Poet Laureate (2015-2016). She is the co-founder, with Julie Landsman, of the I Am From Project, a national project to gather new poetry in response to the troubled state of the nation. See more at https://iamfromproject.com/about/.

  • Photographs courtesy of WM Robinson.