Poems & Lyrics

by Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

*Also the lyric to a song

 

Remember You

No.

You will never have

left my thoughts

long enough

to require

remembering.

 

Dependable as calm oceans
Turn to raging waves -
Sure as their recurring 
Serenity -
Life comes pounding 
Sturdy cliffs into finest 
Sands,
Sands that welcome
Bare feet.


For Savannah 2018

 

Howling winds beat against the windows of my room.

I curl in warmth and smile against a cold that can't come in.

 

My house lives and breathes with wooden lungs.

And lying all alone and quiet in this dark,

I hear the sounds of movement.

 

Almost silently, the creaks and thuds and bumps

     remind me of surrounding strength,

         adjusting as it must.

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

January 17, 2012

 

Paler and paler,

the light from the sun

comes through my window to me.

 

Fading and fading,

the ink from my pen

grows even harder to see.

 

Searching and searching,

I rise from my chair,

breaking the spell of the day.

 

Fumbling and stumbling

In darkness, I fall,

losing what I had to say.

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

May 29, 2017

 

No infant mine to nurse at breast

Or hear my lullaby,

She stands full grown in mind and soul –

Forgets when she was shy,

At age of five, and was to sing

A duet song with me.

She sang her part and great applause

Broke out and I could see

I should not sing at all that day –

Just play the keys and know

I’d seen her drink that moment down

And savor Spotlight’s glow.

 

We knew, we two, that there and then –
Through Audience we learned –
What she had caused upon that stage
Was proof she’d been affirmed.
How skillfully she honed her gift
And walked hard paths to Now.
How carefully she tuned the chords –
Let Grace direct each bow.
How willfully, in her success
And generosity,
She turns it ‘round and scatters hope
To nourish even me.

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

For Kathleen on her birthday
London, October 31, 2013

 

Not Since the sirens came for me

have I dismissed their wail.

Until that awful day I was

most often prone to fail

to get beyond relief that I

and mine were safe and well.

How could compassion not have stirred -

not caused my soul to swell

in  grief for others in despair?

Must screaming sirens come

to shake and wake a part of me

that stubbornly grows numb?

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

May 2017

 

Going through some old journals today, the anniversary of your

parent's 67th wedding anniversary,

I found something I wanted to share with you, our dear children:

 

I guess I should call this "Both Halves, Journal 2010".

 

Sunday afternoon, September 12, 2010

Top of a Vian mountain, where Jim's ashes will be placed with mine:

I linger here a while,

As women do

After their mates have gone.

They go first - our men -

Most often, they go first,

Leaving us to be both halves

Of the One we were.

And, as we feared,

We cannot.

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

September 2014

 

She sits next to me in our writing class -

The girl of prolific stories -

The girl with scarred wrists.

Inside my head, I say to her:

Silently, drenched in a bloody stream of pain,

You reached the dam

     Depression built.

Words broke through and carried you

On ink stained waves, past

Sodden lethal substances and

Sunken razor blades.

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

September 10, 1997

 

I

I seem to think most often of myself.

I don't recall I’ve known another way.

I'm not the sort one places on the shelf.

I'm first on the agenda every day.

Incredibly, the selfless people are,

(I wonder, but they do appear to be,)

In spite of all, the happiest by far...

I guess I'll try; it might be best for me.

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

 

EVIDENCE
 

I don't understand love,
but since I am in love with you,

when you excel,
I share your accolades.

When you fail,
your failure belongs to me.

When you burst with joy,
my happiness overflows.

And when a tear burns your cheek,
I brush it away from mine.

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

For Jim

SONG

A song is not for one to own,

although sometimes the cost

to give it life

is dear.

 

Pain, like joy,

can stir the heart

to rise and fall

in rhyme and tune.

 

But knowing it is moving free

on waves of sound

is payment full

to one who gives it birth,

for those who hear

will sing.

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

 
 

SONNET II

I walked along at even pace for me.

The pebbled path was not too rough, I found.

But just beyond a bend I soon could see

A wall that blocked my course, with no way 'round!

At once I sought to scale the rugged steep -

To grasp each stony crag of barrier tall -

And struggled eVry little gain to keep,

Till, sinews aching, Zeal and I did fall.

What mason mad would build upon that lane,

To hinder such as I from passing through?

Oh, who would think to bring about the pain

Of flesh, of soul, of spirit that I knew?

I searched and low found, etched upon a stone,

The culprit's name, and gasped to read my own.

 

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

Devil's Den

Summer of 1973

 

THE SPENDING

The candle winks,

brightens and fades again.

Tallow falls like tears along its sides

and leaves behind raised traces

of the journey down.

 

How long until the glow

is gone

and darkness falls?

 

No matter.. .if it shines

and sputters to the finish.

And all the wax,

evry bit of wick

is spent.

 

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

 

Were I to hate, I’d hate the setting sun –

the darkness closing around my day –

the weariness that forces me to sleep

and rob me of what I have yet to say.

 

Ashamed, I watch as others view in awe

the vibrant colors of the fading sky.

In gratitude, they lie at last to rest.

In anger, I resist and wonder why.

 

How dare it slip so quickly past the edge

when I’m not done with all I want to do?

How wrong to quit its strong sustaining pow’r

and take away my eyes to see it through.

 

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

August 16, 2016

My Turn
 

 So slow – this turn of mine.

And yet I wait in patience,

with no desire to have it come.

Too dear, this path I walk today –

too fresh the air that cools my face.

 

I seem to hold and flip a braided rope,

as others skip,

and wonder who it is that holds the other end…

the one who calls our names.

I know them all, these friends who come to play.

They take their cues - then fall away.

 

It comes sneaking up – my turn.

Almost unnoticed in

the act of re-filling of my daily pillbox –

the replacing of worn out underwear –

the mending of the roof –

the paying of last year’s taxes –

the increasing need of rest.

 

Like an hourglass,

whose trickling sands measure the passage of time,

I feel the granules flowing past

(somehow less slowly now)

towards a turn for me.

 

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

August 20, 2012

 
 

Like an honored guest, slipping away too soon,

Time is breaking my heart.

As the morning sun finally falls to moon,

Time just rips me apart.

            For he simply wants to move

            with the ticking of the clock.

            It’s as if he needs to prove

            that he certainly cannot

                        possibly stop for me!

            Though I plead for him to stay - 

            linger here a little while -

            he replies it’s not his way  -

             says it’s really not his style

                        and that he must be free!

Like an honored guest, slipping away too soon, Time is breaking my heart.

                                    Give me a day!

                                    Give me an hour!

                                    Give me a moment more!

                                    There’s much to do!

                                    So little spoken!

                                    Still he runs through that door!

 Like an honored guest, slipping away too soon, Time is breaking my heart.

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

April 17, 2013

 

IF THERE IS ONE

Walking from my piano, I say what I always say when I’ve finished a song:

“Best song I’ve ever written!”

But each time I want to do it better when I write my next song…if there is one.

I reason that with the writing of every song, I will learn something to help me find a better lyric, or hear a fresher harmony.

Laying down my pen, I say what I always say when I’ve finished a poem:

“Best poem I’ve ever written!”

But each time I want to do it better when I write my next poem…if there is one.

I hope that with the writing of every poem, I will learn something about searching for deeper concepts or conjuring words that best express the thoughts.

I need to feel that I’m getting better. I must assume that what I’m struggling to create will be improved over my last effort, and that the trying, the failing, the accepting or discarding, will help me accomplish my goal. I desperately want to be more prepared for the coming chance…if there is one.

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

September 18, 2014

 

I see a tattoo on the arm that hangs out

     of the car that has stopped next to mine.

I wonder what that man was thinking about

     to commit of himself with a sign

     that cannot be washed off and won’t be erased

     when the folks all around call it strange.

I ponder if prior to the act he had faced

     that opinions are subject to change.

I can’t read the letters that must be a name,

    for encircling the work is a heart.

He’ll have to find someone whose name is the same

     if (and heaven forbid) they should part!

But I must admire him, for I’m seldom sure…

     my decisions bring questions, I find.

He races away and I’m left to endure

     that I never can make up my mind.

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

May 7, 1991

 

I belong to me now.                                                     

Folks lament; “She is all alone.”

But I’m never lonely,

I’m just simply not one to own.

 

I have never walked here

where the path appears wild and strange.

Still I’ll stumble forward           

Through a dark and unwelcome change.

 

I will be returning,

for there’s need to pass through this way.

And I’ll grow familiar

with the steps that I take each day.

 

There will be decisions

that were never called mine to make.

They’ve been well decided

and designed for only my sake.

 

Being left without him,

I will not be an anguished soul,

or forever grieving

in the thought that I’m less than whole.

 

When I search for answers

to the questions I’ll surely find,

I’ll converse with me and

will continuously change my mind.

 

I will need his laughter

and the warmth of his dear embrace.

I will miss his presence

and the longing upon his face.

 

But I’ll hear the calling

of the birds that he loved in flight

and recall he told me

he’d be near as they flew from sight.

 

There’ll be peace in silence

and contentment in quiet things

that can hum in rhythm

and allow me a song that sings.

 

Till breath’s gone, I’m breathing

and responding to what will be.

In this space, I’m dwelling.

And while here, I belong to me.

Elizabeth Sullivan

February 14, 2017

 

…sitting quite still, and surrounded by plants and blossoms on my back porch, I welcomed my visitor…

 

Today a hummingbird

Hummed into my ear.

And with tiny, frenetic wings,

He fanned my face.

 

Finding me no nectar,  

He soon backward flew.

I could not give the sustenance

He gave to me.

Elizabeth Sullivan

October 8, 2018

 

A TIME TO KILL

 

In nourishing the poison tree,

I’d feel its thorns brush over me.

And Hatred’s venom soon would fill

The one who should have known to kill.

 

With each new branch old fruit is grown

That hides the seed which will be sown

In endless cycles, giving breath

To Evil’s birth and Living’s death.

 

 

Elizabeth Sullivan

 

THE HANDS OF RODIN

Rodin shaped and cast them

small enough to fit into his pockets.

Then like babies who hide

little things in their mouths

for the tongue to peruse,

he carried them in darkness –

touching each curve and line,

every gesture of calm or distress –

the gamut of anger to love.

 

And before he knew what

Balzac’s mouth and eyes would say,

he felt it through fingertips.

Elizabeth Sullivan

November 2, 1998

 

ANGEL, YOU CAN FLY!*

Tears filling your eyes are brimming over into mine.

Still I know your heart and in only a little time you will

 

Soar above it all, Angel you can fly! You can do it! Soar!

Spread your wings and catch the current of the sky and fly!

 

Play among the clouds. Play among the clouds,

 Even though the clouds be dark and stormy.

 

Soar above it all, Angel you can fly! You can do it! Soar!

Spread your wings and catch the current of the sky and fly! And

 

Rise above the mire of disappointment.

See beyond the cruel and the vain.

Know without a doubt the joy that’s hidden

Will come shining through the pain and

 

Soar above it all, Angel you can fly! You can do it!

Spread your wings and catch the current of the sky and

 

Play among the clouds. Circle in the sky. Play among the clouds and fly!

Angel you can fly! Circle in the sky and fly!

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

June, 2002

There is an attic -

    Dark and vast -

          Where manuscripts are kept,

               If they are kept...

A place where dust settles –

     Where yellowing and crumbling occurs –

          Where words and notes,

               Carefully phrased and penned,

                    Lie unread.

There

     Decaying hope lingers to grieve

          For those who searched for wisdom to express

               In fresh and lovely ways,

                    Then feigned;

“It doesn’t matter if it is read. It’s just something I must do.”

     But, of course, it did.

          It does matter.  

 

                      Elizabeth Sullivan

                               January 1, 1991                 

 

SOMEONE,

whose name I could not call,

called me

from deep inside.

And though the presence was a part of

me,

still it was wholly other.

 

And I,

who yearned to answer,

groped in discontent.

 

But as a hand imprints a likeness

pressing paper to a sculpted stone,

so rubbed and bumped

my heart along its sides

until I knew the form,

that only spirit fills,

is God.

 

 

Elizabeth Sullivan

1996

 

MY ENCORE

You should have heard my encore. You should have heard my song.

If you’d have heard my encore – if only you’d have heard my song –

you never would have left me standing there

in the spotlight all alone.

You never would have left me standing there

in the spotlight all alone.

I wrote each word for you and the melody was yours alone.

Ev’rything I sang was true. Ev’ry phrase was there for you to own.

My rhythms made you smile. You kept listening to what I’d say.

You were happy for a while, but at last I felt you stray away.

You should have heard my encore. You should have heard my song.

If you’d have heard my encore – if only you had heard my song –

you never would have left me standing there

In the spotlight all alone.

You never would have left me standing there

In the spotlight all alone.

You would have shouted “Encore!”

You would have wanted much more! “Brava!” “Encore!”

Elizabeth Sullivan

May, 2017

 

FRIENDS

Verse

Not much lasts any longer.

It all fades like leaves that blow away.

And like the slowly dying ember,

The night will come to take the day.

We shape the sand into our castles.

They get swept away with the tide.

And all around us there are lovers

No longer walking side by side. But

 

First Chorus

Friends, forever friends,

We’ll be together, you and I.

Friends, good old friends,

Though storms may chase away our sunny sky.

Friends, forever friends,

After all that we’ve been through, you for me and me for you,

We will be friends, enduring friends, forever friends.

 

Second Chorus

We’re forever friends,

We’ll share our joys and all our tears.

We’re enduring friends,

You’ll always seem the same, throughout the years.

Friends, forever friends,

After all that we’ve been through, you for me and me for you,

We will be friends, enduring friends, forever friends.

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

1993 

Dedicated to Martha Coyle Edwards, CHHS best friend

 
 
 

IF NOT NOW, WHEN?

I procrastinate, and I really hate to waste

all the time it takes deciding what to do.

As I hesitate – hang around and wait –

there’s a question I am trying to think through…

If not now, when? When have the signs ever been so clear?

And if not here, where? Where is there a finer place

in all of earth or space than here?

Why should I miss certain bliss, not following my heart?

And shall I try to deny this is the perfect time and place to start?

If not here, where? If not this moment, how?

How will I ever find a better time than now?

If not here, Where? If not this moment, how?”

How will I ever find a more wonderful time to begin than now?

(Children join soloist)

If not here, where? If not this moment, how?

How will we ever find a more wonderful time to begin than now?

(Each child sings “than now” while soloist continues to hold “now.”)

All sing “Now!”

 

Elizabeth Sullivan

December 23, 1996
 

 

SO NEAR, BUT NOT THERE YET

Like one who is lost in a city,

I’m confused by the streets and the signs –

the reds and the greens and the cautions

and the people that leave me behind.

 

I search for that one destination –

the elusive one I cannot see.

Beyond ev’ry bend and each corner,

is an end of the journey for me.

 

So near, but not there yet.

So close, yet so far.

Still I know I will find where you are.

     Where you are when you’re dreaming,

          is the place I would be

               For I would be the vision of your mind.

 

So close, but not there yet.

So near, but too far.

Still I know I will find where you are.

     Where you are when you’re longing,

          is the place I would be

               for I would be the wish within your heart.

 

So near, but not there yet.

So close, but too far.

Still I know I will find where you are.

 

Elizabeth Sullivan

September 27, 2007

 


 

Tribute to Mabel Mercer

 

Close your eyes. Listen.
Close your eyes. Hear
all the stories she told us when she’d sing.

 

Close your eyes. See her.
Close your eyes. Know
all the ways she taught us how to sing. Then,

 

as long as we sing, she will sing.
As long as we sing, we’ll remember
all the many songs she knew so well
and understood, as no one ever could before.

 

As long as we live with the words
until we know what they mean -
as long as we reach down deep inside
to feel the joy – to feel the pain they bring -
as long as we touch another’s heart
the way she knew just how to do –
as long as we sing, she’ll be singing too.
As long as we sing, she’ll be singing too.

 

Elizabeth Sullivan

 
 

Catching the Moment

I’m catching the moment and stashing it away
from the hands of a clock that doesn’t want it to stay.
I’m hanging on to a feeling and I simply refuse
to let Time take from me what I don’t want to lose;
Out of nowhere it happened, this serendipity!
Out of nothing something came, especially for me.
And from somewhere, just like magic, I suddenly could see;

I must somehow find a way to always be;


Catching the moment and stashing it away
from the hands of a clock that doesn’t want it to stay.
I’m hanging on to a feeling and I simply refuse
to let Time take from me what I don’t want to lose;
Out of nowhere it happened, this serendipity!
Out of nothing something came, especially for me.
And from somewhere, just like magic, I suddenly could see;
I must somehow find a way to always be;


Catching the moment, stashing it away, catching the moment!

 

Elizabeth Sullivan

This Morning Came and Brought Me Hope

This morning came and brought me hope

that surely now the crest of grief

had passed and found a downward slope

toward a place of calm relief.

But I was wrong to think it so.

Lingering, the sobs refuse to go.

 

Undaunted sorrow still defies –

remains in spite of all I do.

I see his dark and searching eyes –

lament that they are closed and through

with looking well at what he’d find,

shaping it anew within his mind.

 

I touch his strong and wondrous hands

and weep because they’ll work no more

to follow his own brilliant plans

for living on a rocky shore.

It’s steel, it’s glass with redwood beams

“Leaning to the lake” – his place for dreams

that never were for him alone.

He wanted loved ones gathered where

They’d show more love than they had shown.

His wish was just to see them there

enjoying water’s clean caress -

losing all their cares and stress.

 

His time cut short, he pled for more

to finish visions he’d begun.

He craved the strength he’d need before

his final, finest work was done.

The days sped by, and loss was feared.

Gratefully, the answer soon appeared.

 

A builder nephew came to gain

a sense of schemes, as yet undrawn.

A doctor brother blocked the pain

of Death, and wept when Life was gone.

A grieving mother wipes her eyes –

carries her lost child until she dies.

Danny Kevin Sullivan Born September 14, 1955 Died July 29, 2017

The poem by his mother, Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan October 11, 2017

 

Treble Sounds

This rhyme is for the women who

felt rhyme but could not write.

This thought is for the ones who knew

and suffered through the night

of ignorance that cast them as

the gender less endowed –

for loveliness through time that has been

lost or not allowed.

This song sings measured notes of pain

In treble sounds until

It brings to rest what can remain

of wrongs that linger still.

 

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

 

Unspoken

Sometimes

words aren’t enough.

 

Sometimes

Silence is best.

 

Some times

cry out for a simple

quiet

embrace.

 

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

 

 

SONNET IX

Poor thing, I thought, and only glanced her way.

I’d not make fun of her for looking so,

But think of something full of joy and say

It for her ears that somehow she may know

(Although she wore a worried, harried look,)

There surely must be something to rejoice!

And in her wrinkled robe (the peek I took

Revealed) I hoped there was an inner voice

To guide her through the trouble of her day.

I came to doubt such miracles could be.

But sense of humor she at last displayed,

For as I moved, she moved and mimicked me.

On closer look I winced, in horror saw

She had no life – was but a mirrored wall.

 

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

 

 

WAITING IN THE WINGS

Waiting in the wings -

I’m just waiting in the wings,

shivering and lis’ning all alone,

for my curtain call.

I have learned my ev’ry line –

oh, I hope I’ve learned my lines,

and I want to walk out on that stage and

give the crowd my all!

I’ve felt like this before -

known fears like this before,

still I keep coming back again for more!

‘Cause when I get it right, and I know I got it right,

There’s a joy I can’t describe…a longing that is deep inside.

(Repeat from beginning)

Waiting in the wings,

I’m just waiting in the wings,

shivering and lis’ning all alone

for my curtain call.

 

Words and music by

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan, 2019

 

 
 

WALK ON THE LEA

This morning Roly Poly Bug

came out to walk the lea.

He formed an armored ball to shrug –

ignore the likes of me.

The Sycamore, so full of seed

in fluffs of white, could send

new life to Earth. But she would need

the helping gusts of Wind.

And he accommodated her.

He always does in May.

The swirling earth and skies in blur

made promises today.

 

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan, May 11, 1989

 

CAREFUL

I was careful not to tell a widow,

“I understand,”

until my husband died.

 

Nor did I say to a grieving mother,

“I feel your pain,”

until I lost my son.

I would not share with the suffering old,

“I empathize,”

until my time grew short.

 

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

January 29, 2020

 

 
 

THE HELGA COLLECTION

 

 I finish my chores – walk alone beside the Brandywine River to the old

fieldstone buildings… his home, his studio, and his gristmill, whose

sturdy wooden door stands open for me. 

Passing the massive, silent grinding stones and waterwheel,                 

I climb stairs, push up a hinged barrier to the second floor and see,

hanging or leaning against the walls and posts,

his paintings, his drawings – his works in tempera, watercolor and

drybrush... sixty-seven of them. I count slowly, lingering on each one.

All are framed and ready to view.

All are of me.

“Art to me is seeing,” he says. He believes an artist must use eyes as

well as emotion.

 He sees my hair shining and paints my eyes resigned –         

my mouth stoic… almost always.

I sit, stand or lie unclothed on white sheets.

He arranges my long, braided hair, or loosens it over my breasts –

adjusts my face or hips to catch the light.

He puts flowers in my hair and has me move through grassy fields.

Placing my hand to shade my eyes, he lays me on autumn leaves.

In winter he wraps me in sheepskin.

I walk through snow for him.         

  

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

English 3133, University of Oklahoma 1998  -  October, 2020

Painting: Andrew Wyeth

ON ARRANGING

 

I placed the flowers in a vase

and thought of how it is so strange

that it’s not just what’s put within,

but what’s withheld that helps arrange

the lovely thing I would create.

Yet since each blossom that I see

appears too beautiful to waste,

to use them all seems right to me.

And yielding to that whim, I lose

the beauty of design, no doubt.

I’d like to learn to pick, to choose.

I must discern what to leave out!

         

  

Elizabeth Fowler Sullivan

March 19, 1988