Katie Letcher Lyle

Books & Articles:

Lyrics of Three Women

©Linden Press, 1964

Selected Poems:

Lyrics of Three Women


’He was mine, no other’s.
’The fishermen are strange companions;
Only his hands are like theirs,
Glad and sure . . . they call him Master
Only because he is lone and quiet and wise. . .
’...I, too, am child of God, and you, and all . . .
’God, where were You today, then,
You Who said: Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother,
When the blind city lay white and shadowless and silent
Under the battering noon,
When his eyes bored beyond my face,
And his hands, hands that soothed the lathe and wheel,
Took up instead a wretched staff,
And his face turned towards the scorched windless hill
Where the dogwood tree cast no shade
And a thorn-laurel clawed his hand?


’The rock I threw skimmed the sluggish creek,
Shattered the vesper sun pattern,
Made seven sunsets flaring from one.’
This golden thing I have tried to shake off,
A burnished panther with silent stalking,
With ivory claws locked relentlessly in my back,
That crept sleekly behind to leap suddenly,
When, for a moment, I failed to watch—
Is not at all what I had thought of
On that day when the sun slid flatly
L ike a silver coin behind a streak
Of hot gray clouds, and yet blinded me.
The wind above the assenting brush where I lay
Tumbled and gasping, blew out the sun,
Ran silver-voiced through the shiny wet lime leaves
That I knew hovered above me, shaking off
Fat drops to fall on my silenced eyes.
Make me more than a shadow
of something I wanted to be
’He died from the rock that skimmed the rusty creek,
Shattered the red flickering sun pattern,
Making seven screams flaring at dusk.’
Make me more than a shadow
of something I wanted to be


It was just an old man’s story;
He had come lately from a ship
That stood not moving in the harbor
Like a blinding glass
Below the midnoon town;
(His blistered hand shook where he pointed)
The peeling hull creaked softly, warped
Under the angry white sun
Blanching the slack sails, salt-crusted rags
Of an old man’s misery.
The great broken hulk bowed
To the steady hammering heat.
The sailor leaned under his heavy coil;
There were purple rope-burns
On the “grained leather neck;
Bleached eyes held the ghost
Of his tale.
I remembered that his eyes
Compelled me strangely,
And that his voice
W as not the voice
Of a sunstruck fool.
The rope-burns on his sun-leathered neck
Were purple and raw and golden-scabbed.


There is no breath in the waiting air;
Only the preening crab apple shakes out
Her curving petal shower quieter than snow
To grace the green-yellow lawn
For perhaps six glistening young days,
Blushingly asserts her pink presence
In this damp place
That does not yet believe in spring.
Where is the wind and its singing?
The palsied dogwood twists, struggles
To rouse the rusty buds from drugged sleep;
Shameless Judas cowers in the new shade,
Bloody hands clenched and hidden still.
The crab apple’s spiteful offering
In August, of wizened knobs
Like rocks will clutter the cancerous yard.
Gone the futile soft palms upturned in the wet grass.
The perfumed lilac gathered yesterday
Lies unleavened, functionless upon the sill,
Dead in the morning sun.
Did the locust wings we found
Last year, read war, or peace?
Guileless, flagrant, the flowering crab apple,
Bred for the blossom and not for the fruit.


You may well sit there an unhurried forever,
Napping in a wicker chair, sun-spotted,
Your bronze sloping neck quilted with gold shade
A smooth landing field for the early leaves
Falling, crumpled from the hot metal wind
As the days spin and turn in amber threads
Of the locust’s croon and the voice of willows,
Lambent in the feathered wind.
See, Your world is easy to believe
A tune may travel the quick length of your moment’s musing
And reweave a tangled pattem from the warp and woof
Of heavy hours spun from a creaking shuttle.
To think of mending the world You have broken
There was an age to trail fingers through the sand,
To say, Alone, Of Course,—vengeful nights and angry hands
Snatching forgiven words back from the wind, and mornings
To stretch awake to metric rain, and time to unwind
Whatever words perhaps you did not mean.
Raven cries echo across the empty, metal-bronze dusk,
The smooth surface of now is not married; walk gently.
And soon, soon, an infinity of folded hands,
For thinking only those things which You ought to have done


in memory of Sydney M. Hirsch

He was bounded, neck and loin, saturate
And stunted with his gift of fire and arts,
Bought for love of those who chained him here.
The sword imbedded in the pitiless stone,
Eagles round his head to flap and wail
And pick his treble eyes. There is a tale
But none will hear. What man is so alone—
Strange birds gnawing his liver, God so near—
But Christ, the soft-voiced seeker of their hearts
Who ever seek their Master’s hand too late?

Site design by Mariner Media, Inc.