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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The Meadowlark Reader: Three by Olive Sullivan

Each Wednesday we will share an excerpt from a Meadowlark book. Use the "Follow our website" form on the right to receive Meadowlark updates by email. 

Family Photos

 The last time I remember talking to you,

you were wearing your purple silk dress,

your white hair twisted by the wind

that seemed would blow you over.

You had the little rocking chair in your hand

and you asked me who was stealing your things,

why my dad wouldn’t let you go home.

Meadowlark - December 2017
ISBN-13: 978-0996680189 

I was twelve. There was nothing I could do

but carry the chair and take you back inside with me

to the house we shared, even though you didn’t  recognize it.

The last time I saw you, in your satin-lined coffin,

my mother was wearing a red dress.

She said it was your happy day —

you were free, no longer confused,

no longer afraid.


When you died, I thought,

well, that’s me, no more stories, no more history,

but I can’t look through a photo album without you

leaning over my shoulder.


Years later, racked with sorrow and confusion,

my marriage flying to pieces,

my heart in chunks of ash and ice and searing fire and helpless,

I passed an old woman in the parking lot at King Soopers

holding a bag of groceries.

She looked lost. The wind rocked her,

wrapped her purple silk dress around her frail legs.

I came back to ask if she needed help

and you looked out of her eyes and told me

everything would be all right.


This photo shows Thanksgiving dinner, circa 1940,

twenty-some years before I will be born.

Everyone’s around the table —

that’s me in your sepia flowered dress —

there’s my face.

Another photo: there’s you and Grandpa on the beach

with Jack and Mabel, Roy and Virginia,

Grace and Clifford. Your dress, wet from the surf,

is plastered against your knees.

Virginia wears a daring bathing suit with short sleeves

and a ruffled neckline. I see it still so clearly,

but when I was back in Galveston last year,

only the postcards would reminisce with me.


Now I am a grandmother.

My grandbaby too looks out of that 1940s Thanksgiving photo —

she’s standing by my side wearing the body of a nine-year-old boy.

Face, eyes, dreams, names — the bones remember.


Wandering Bone 
Copyright © 2017 Olive Sullivan 
Meadowlark Books

Ghost City 

From the rooftop you can see 

it’s a city of ghosts — 

abandoned gardens, 

dead buildings, 

windows empty holes, 

black mildew like graffiti 

painting the yellow walls, 

sculpted cornucopias

crumbling to component dust. 

Only the stray dogs 

at the shanty town 

by the river still move, 

white shadows slinking 

along the malec√≥n 

where lovers strolled 

holding hands above the colonial river. 

Now, garbage and feral children, 

cats and pigeons claim the streets. 

Wandering Bone 
Copyright © 2017 Olive Sullivan 
Meadowlark Books

Pin Oak

The world is turning shades of blue,
a wall of clouds moving in from the west
to meet the darkening sky behind us.
Pin Oak Lake lies still, waiting,
a palette for the sky to fill.
Two hawks rise up, their cries
eerie in the winter dusk,
their feathers striking the last notes of gold
from the setting sun. They
wheel and circle, a dance of rage
or love or something in between —
We cannot tell. It does not matter.

Wandering Bone 
Copyright © 2017 Olive Sullivan 
Meadowlark Books

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