The poetry of Lara Phelps

Not Made for Staying

Tales of flashfloods and quicksand
have come to nothing, of no import now
that roots have come bumping up
through the sidewalk, blocking our path.

We’re impermanently fixed
here. Names carved in curved lines
on stone, only the date
of our death to be filled in.

We’re tired with the waiting
exhausted with the grief
skin gone pale as a snowdrift
losing hair like blood.

Out of time, out of sorts, out of milk
lost our way, our wallet, our love.
Days elusive as lightning bugs, but
here are these moments:

A brigade of arms and legs
in a childhood game
catch a hand, send ‘er over
not made for staying this side of the yard.

A mother’s fingertip to child’s cheek
to brush away a hair, smudge of jelly;
going quietly into the room at night
checking for breath.

The silence of eyelashes on a lover’s cheek
(if they were grouped like crows
in a murder they’d be a hush
of lashes lifting) a swell of butterfly kisses.

If you learn what to look for it’s easy:
the whole tree known by a leaf
flower by petal or smell
a bird by the shape of a feather, sound of a song.


Lara Phelps is a cataloging librarian in an Ohio public library. She’s astounded, almost relieved, when the right words distill an experience into a poem. If she’s not reading or writing, she might be found dangerously close to breaking out Zumba moves in public places (her husband and daughter would be delighted rather than embarrassed if she actually did).

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