Poem of the Week | July 07, 2009

Frannie Lindsay is the winner of our Jeffrey E. Smith Prize in Poetry, and her work is featured in the latest issue of The Missouri Review (32:1).  Because most of the poems in the winning submission were elegies addressed to her sister, we asked if we could feature this poem separately (it is also an elegy, addressed to a friend).  This poem is previously unpublished.

Frannie Lindsay is the author of two volumes of poetry:  Where She Always Was (Utah State University Press) andLamb (Perugia Press).  Her recent work has appeared in The Yale Review, Southern Humanities Review, The Georgia Review, Southern Review, Field, Black Warrior Review, and elsewhere.  She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the ARts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Affection between the very old, although its hues may have grown dusky, is no less vibrant at its depth than the courtly love of youth. Ginny, who was afflicted with Alzheimer’s, had been a brilliant concert pianist with flawless memory.


When it simply came time for her to stop knowing
what a piano was, or the reason for socks

or kettles, her husband sat her down
in the paisley chair that had stayed in the family

after his own mother died, covered her knees
with the afghan she knit him one year for Christmas,

and told her again how pretty she looked
and rubbed her dry little hands.

And once in a while she gestured, as though
she may have wanted to

stitch or color-the harmless afterflames of intended
motion-anything using her fingers to keep herself

from feeling the Debussy slip from them, as evening
crossed the lawn they had kept together.

As if she were trying to ask him to guide her
outside, quick, before dark,

and help her
bring the white impatiens in.