top of page

Lesley Kimball

Lament I couldn't hate Mitch McConnell more. I know hate is only fear—only of those who aren't afraid. You reading this 100 years from now. You wearing a mask that helps you breathe and avoid airborne viruses. You who blindfold your children at school. You who will never read this. There is no place to bury our poems and laments that won't be scoured away like moss from the rocks, salt on the hull. I am no longer curled fetally waiting to not be born, waiting for my daughter to be free from their biting traps and gory bonds. After she sees a fight, one of her friends on the pavement, blood from his nose on his shirt, she stops talking for days. On the fourth she writes: words taste sour.

A Drowning Man Will Clutch at a Straw It’s a perfect day for a cup of tears, I said to my mother over the phone, while pouring hot water for tea. The neurologist, after he asked, “what does it mean to say ‘people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones?” confirmed what my father never told us, that she was being eroded like rocks becoming sand. When I was a child and we went to the beach, my father would stay in the car. My mother said he hated the ocean. Later she told me he was afraid of it, afraid that we would be lost in it. Did it seem inevitable to him? That he couldn’t save us? When I was in college, my mother matter-of-factly told me that she often dreamed we were on that beach in a dense fog. She knew that I was somewhere ahead, my father far away. She would call and call, choking, hearing the ocean, but never find me. This seemed unremarkable to me, as if I remembered being there. Now, my mother didn’t correct me; maybe she often had a cup of tears; maybe it was just another piece of the world she couldn’t interpret: “A drowning man will clutch at a cup of tears.” My father is still gone, my mother correcting me in my head. All normal. The old losses were inevitable and absolute, and grieved before they happened.

From Before

If the day were water, we could see ourselves in it.

Float on the surface, use it to start the world over again.

But it isn’t. It isn’t crystal, or ink, or cloud, or machine.

The day is your likeness, though nothing like you. It lacks

your sharp edges, your speed to anger and reluctance

to let go. Outrage burning like a star that died light years ago.

Days are nothing. You light them and blow them out. Scattered

matches, smell of burning. You left hours ago. Days ago.

No scorch marks, no smoke, no alarms. Nothing to see here.

Still, we look. The day is aggressively visible, demands attention,

is close enough to snag on our sweaters. The kernels of the day

get stuck in our teeth. The day breaks apart from the lightest touch.


Lesley Kimball’s poems have appeared in Salamander, Constellations, Port Smith, Omphalos,

Café Review, Ballard Street, and several anthologies. Poems of hers can also be found in the New Hampshire Poet Laureate’s Showcase and as part of a sculpture/poem installation. As a librarian, she enjoys the feeling of power over words, except when they fight back. She lives (with too many dogs and just the right number of husbands and daughters) and writes in New Hampshire.


bottom of page