Joyce Lazarus Poetry

Joyce Lazarus has been writing poetry, memoir and short fiction for more than 30 years.  Her work has appeared in print and online literary journals. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by The Berkshire Review.  She can be reached by email:  joyce.lazarus@gmail.com

Self-Portrait

Robust and full-bodied
once a creamy white luster
it’s now opaque.
Age cracks run like fine veins 
through the well-worn clay.
Tiny chips, like childhood pocks.
etch the thick-lipped rim. 
The bowl sits alone near the center
of the old round table
where generations of families once
passed their lives to  each other
like salt, like bread.
It’s empty now, save for the shadows
of eggs it once contained.
Fresh, hard-shelled, warm,
thick, golden-yolked,
long ago consumed
yet held by it still. 



Meeting Gregory Corso on AOL

His online screen name didn’t
try to hide it

        GCorsoPoet
His profile quote read:
        old age is now

This wasn’t really his medium
but all that was available
in coastal New Hampshire 
at half-past insomnia
after the bars had closed
after his reasoning mind shut down
He must have been doing a drunken
late night search for a sleepless poet
when he found me,
someone he could talk at,
male, female, it didn’t matter
someone who remembered;
and there weren’t many.
Most online, thought The Beats
were a rock group.  
He talked of Burroughs, of Kerouac, 
Ginsberg and Guthrie
Oh pale life I’ve lived by comparison.
I talked of my cats,  my kids.
"a pic  they always want a pic"
His keyboard spat contempt.
"They’re idiots,
All they want is my pic,
"do you have a pic?"
(I could almost hear his whining mimicry)
as if a pic is worth even one of my words.”
He flung lines of poetry 
across the chat room screens we’d visit
and kids who fancied themselves poets
would trash his work.
He’d scream and rail
"You don’t  know anything!
Fuck you 
Fuck you! “
but he’d always come back for more.
Even if they’d never heard of him,
any audience was better than no audience at all.
He wrote poetry for me in our private windows,
gin-soaked poetry, incoherent fragments.
He was a bad boy and an ill-tempered man.
I had read all about him,
but what a thrill.
Night after night, I was his audience of one.
Faithfully I remained awake, sometimes
stifling yawns as if he might hear me,
until he would fall asleep at his keyboard
spent before dawn.
Several months went by like this,
then GCorsoPoet
disappeared from my screen.
For weeks I kept vigil,
hunted for him 
in the middle of the night
but he never returned.
A few months later
The New York Times 
reported his death.
The Beat is gone.
Old age is now.

The world is only in the mind of its maker. Do not believe it is outside of yourself.

—A Course in Miracles 


For Florence

It’s as if she excused herself
from her linear life
and asking no one’s permission,
decided to live elsewhere,
to see from a distant mind.
For her there is no direction, 
except here and the
places her dreams lead,
where past. more alive than present,
becomes embellished with new visions
of what has never been 
like the silk kimono she never owned
which she gave away after a hospital stay,
and yet what is not an invention of the mind?
Who among us can not see it,
after hearing her tell of the brilliant roses and yellows
bleeding through the softest silk?
Does it matter if this happened to her
or a hundred years ago
to another woman she never knew?
She brings something beautiful
to our table, to our lives
as real as all that never happened
when the past calls to our different eyes.

Deodorized

Clutter and odor 
were intolerable to mother.
She traded shaggy Penny
our bad-mannered dog
for Brandy, a French poodle
who didn’t shed, smell
or leave tracks.
The rest  of us weren’t
as easily disposed of.
Endlessly vigilant, she’d
follow us,
picking up papers
closing books
throwing clothes in hampers
shutting closet doors,
turning out lights,
wrapping half-eaten sandwiches
before we had finished.
She sprayed every room with 
fake floral scent
covering up offenses-
smoke, stale food,
menstrual blood, sweat.
Garbage 
didn’t happen in mother’s house.
Bits of food, offhand remarks, cigarette ash
were caught mid-air,
sealed in plastic bags,
quickly thrown out.
She dusted daily
wiping our fingerprints
leaving no evidence behind.

Japanese Garden in the Carmelite Wood

Statues of animals used to live on
the grounds in this once cultivated garden
of the Carmelite woods
a frog, a rabbit,  even a  Buddha, but
now just the untidy keeper 
of the wood remains,
a smirched Virgin, smiling
beneath her crown of plastic flowers.
She stands with  quiet dignity, 
as if resigned to her fate,
her stone face impervious to fallen leaves,
choirs of vines, brambles of berries and thorns
It is nature which is at last, home here
resilient, pregnant, wild and green.
A gentle rain begins to fall
and baptizes the woods again and again
as it was before salvation
and will be evermore.
Spring of eternal life.