Thursday, January 19, 2006


When I saw my mother’s head on the cold pillow,
Her white waterfalling hair in the cheeks’ hollows,
I thought, quietly circling my grief, of how
She loved God but cursed extravagantly his creatures.

For her final mouth was not water but a curse,
A small black hole, a black rent in the universe,
Which damned the green earth, stars and trees in its stillness
And the inescapable lousiness of growing old.

And I record she was comfortless, vituperative,
Ignorant, glad, and much else besides; I believe
She endlessly praised her black eyebrows, their thick weave,
Till plagiarizing Death leaned down and took them for his mould

And spoiled a dignity I shall not again find,
And the fury of her stubborn limited mind;
Now none will shake her amber beads and call God blind,
Or wear them on a breast so radiantly.

O fierce she was, mean and unaccommodating;
But I think now of the toss of her gold earrings,
Their proud carnal assertion, and her youngest sings
While all the rivers of her red veins move into the sea.

-- Irving Layton


Karen Shenfeld said...

One of my favourite and, I think, one of the best poems by Irving Layton -- or by any other poet. I will always remember my beloved teacher!

Ann BIrch said...

I have come to this site several times to reread "Keine Lazarovitch." It's a lovely poem, and the line about "the inescapable lousiness of growing old" will always resonate with me.

Brian Campbell said...

Yes, it's one of my favourite Layton poems. It's gratifying to think that a blog post this old is still reaching people.

Ann BIrch said...

Brian, it's all about the joy of a poem that offers the inescapable fulfillment of reading truth. Thank you for putting Layton's poem on our screens.