Molly Lynde

Dear Colleague

The meeting this afternoon was splendid—
oh, there was the usual array
of faces, tired, polite, restrained,
but none complacent, for once.
You would have been amused,
I think,
to see them gathered there.

The reminiscences stirred the attendees,
still relieved to be on the committee of the living,
to sit in service, so to speak,
solemnly contemplating their own inevitable rotation off
to distant shores.

Yes, Colleague, little-known and yet loved, nonetheless
(as a tribute to a different eternity of endless hours,
spent seated around a table, pad and pen in hand, affability affixed),
in your silhouette, however unique,
we see our own shadows commingle.

You should know that the bird your student spoke of—
the one that somehow got into the Rare Book Room where you spent so many days—
found shape
in the rising and soaring of the young people’s “Benediction” song
(two, in the back row, with multicolored hair;
a third with an angel’s fierce face;
another, all chest, like a football player—
a visual medley, in spite of doleful concert garb,
all lifted up in a differentiated but shared
joyful transcendence by the sheer beauty of their own fused voices—
for what do they know of death?).
the bird unfolded itself gently out of their robes,
stretched out its wings,
and grew ever larger, enormous, gargantuan,
swooping and swirling, filling all the space over our heads
in an eerie, graceful dance,
and none of us could take our eyes off of it,
until at the song’s end
it released us
and gave us back to ourselves,

And then they escorted out your shrunken, defiant parents,
your bewildered, huge-eyed wife,
and your brother, stiff and awkward
like half of a matched pair of candlesticks.
Naked faces of bereavement
that we hastened to cover
with any new business we could find.


Geography Lessons, 10th Arrondissement, Paris

down rue de la Roquette with
my ortho
air cast boot on the weakest foot,
a herky-
jerky ramble in uneven time, just
the lay of the land.

And overhead
the new-leafed branch
the wheeling wing
the morning blue

No ice patches to avoid like in Kalamazoo,
but food shops spilling onto the sidewalk:
golden apples bring back that long-ago orchard,
a small piece of sunlight warmed on the tree and edible—
red, red persimmons, wistful flame of memory,
and the taste back then was so bright.

Each step
requires negotiation and intent, like
through the painted hopscotch on Ménilmontant
but in this moment the spaces are
bigger than life-sized, and if they
swallowed you
into a fold of absence in the air, no one
would notice
that the unobtrusive foreigner with the limp
had vanished.

And overhead
the new-leafed branch
the wheeling wing
the morning blue

I hesitate,
carefully lower myself gently off
the curb.
The heel bone is surprisingly

A dad and son whirl by on bicycles
feet pedaling smoothly in cadence
matching brown eyes
the depth of joy so real
you could swim in it,
like the time we parked our bikes
on the side of the road
and swam in that wild river
on our trek to Oregon,
the way we drank from the waterfall.

Michael is already an expert at our new neighborhood.
He found the best shops instinctively,
remembers after a glance
the bus for Place de la Bastille, the Seine.

But I labor over the map,
plotting routes along the avenues and side streets,
decoding the colored metro and bus lines
like the 12th-century handwriting I decipher at the library.
Determined to make sense of it.
Luckily the music school
is only a few blocks from
our temporary home,
an easy walk that I stump out
in a clumsy dotted quarter beat with my
ortho boot.

As I hobble along, the globe instantaneously
around the body-sized spot I presently occupy—a living
Google map
deforming all sense of natural perspective.
There’s no way
to connect anything here to anything else outside this
magnified area
until I ka-thunk along to the next block, which
then looms
disproportionately large as the preceding one

And overhead
the new-leafed branch
the wheeling wing
the morning blue

The woman inside that shop is lonely
behind her cash register full of euros,
those racks of thick Irish sweaters
made from Irish wool sheared from Irish sheep.
But in the Chinese restaurant
all of the employees
are young and confident
and I also see Grandpa
expertly working his spatula
and his griddle.

O Spatula!
Unsung hero of Saturday morning pancake
of potato fries with onion in the big cast-iron
of our children’s happy faces and satisfied

The boy now makes his living measuring
the thickness of ice at the poles.
The girl has become a deep-sea diver
searching for exotic fish in the tropics.
They have remained opposites
but are joined by water—
not surprising for children of the Great Lakes.

No great lake
just a muddy puddle to gimp

And overhead
the new-leafed branch
the wheeling wing
the morning blue

I pause at the dog park.
People are always talking about books here:
this morning the radio host interviewed a distinguished writer
who wrote a book after his dog died:
the intellectual veneer was gone
he spoke nakedly
about the courage needed for
love, grief, vulnerabilities.
I want to read that book
but I think we already wrote it
or are still writing it
in invisible ink tracings of longitude and latitude
linking the poles to the equator,
continent to ocean to continent again.

The four of us had gathered from distant parts
at the veterinary hospital for the goodbye
that is still hard to talk about,
our hands touching his
patchy fur, creaky old body,
finally letting him go.

Enduring love is a mystery.

Sometimes we picture the younger version of our lost companion
with us here,
overreacting to every unfamiliar object and
sudden sound,
totally lacking the sophisticated blasé of
French dogs,
who never bark foolishly at large recycling bins.
It makes us
laugh out loud, then we apologize
to the whiff
of his presence. He used to turn his back
in a huff
and flop down to face away from us whenever
we laughed
at his confusion. It’s understandable.

And overhead
the new-leafed branch
the wheeling wing
the morning blue

I take a cautious larger step over a piece
of trash,
and then a smaller one.
I breathe and find equilibrium.
A major scale has a combination of whole and half-step intervals.
My young violin teacher, like all music teachers
has eyes that go somewhere else
when she’s evaluating a tone.

The brief absence from herself
is a marvel to see,
proof of some other dimension
and of the distant harmony of the celestial spheres
that my Renaissance professor once lectured about.
Each time she returns, she tells me calmly
with poise and certainty
how to correct the false note.
It’s a comfort to have such clear directions.

And overhead
the new-leafed branch
the wheeling wing
the morning blue

And overhead
the new-leafed branch
the wheeling wing
the morning blue


Molly Lynde lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Her poetry has been published in First Literary Review-East, The Font, Heron Tree, Rue Scribe, Stonecrop, and is forthcoming in Compass Rose. She co-founded and served as editor-in-chief of Transference, a literary journal featuring poetry in translation, from 2012 to 2020. Read Transference at