Lance Lee

Poet, Playwright, Novelist

Book covers
Book covers

Four current existential poems on life and the world

just out or forthcoming online in Ink Sweat & Tears (UK), Streetlight (US), and shortly in print in POEM (US).
  1. Wings – Streetlight (US)
  2. History – Ink, Sweat & Tears (UK)
  3. Long Night – Streetlight (US)
  4. Contradictions – Streetlight (US)


Gulls feast in freshly furrowed and sown
Salinas fields early February, early warmth
far from the cold Big Sur wind-thrashed waves
beyond the Santa Lucias:
or startle, confetti
thrown in the blue sky before they settle again
in Carmel River's dune-protected mouth.
How do they manage tonight when the wind
turns Lear-mad and howls and tears at the eaves?
I cannot sleep, although sleep smooths the lines
of the woman I have grown old beside, beside me.
All night the storm thrusts inland so morning
bares a dust-brown day where gulls
crouch between the furrows brown waves
or nestle behind the dunes as a white-capped sea
tumults towards the horizon.

When the wind wanes they soar, not feeding
not settling, their hunched patience forsworn.
Do they fill the air from manic relief—
or balanced between too much and too little
fly from natural joy?
Could I swoop over that sea
in a dazzle of wings in such a moment?
I stand between so many worlds, lifeloveage,
mananimaland the world's slow death,
my only wings my words.

Carmel, February 2020


Here vineyards spill beyond an autumn hill,
each vineyards's grapeleaves a different red or gold,
geometric as Cezanne, the arc of the sky
a long blue neck by Mondrian.
What if the earth breathes its seasons as though alive,
for when bright day drops her gown
behind a pointilist screen of stars
the real feels a world of painted theatrical scenes:

there iceshorn Greenland a new Bali
of fertile terraces above the warming sea:
there cratered streets, shattered apartments
where children scavenge: there
a gatedguardedidyllic community
where othersobliviousplay;
there missiles arch downward as dolphins into water
and mushrooms soar into the air;
there pilgrims wander on dirt or paved or cracked
or forgotten roads towards a dream of refuge
while there refugees are caged, displayed
for others sure they cannot be human, too—

you get the point

the whole fantasmagoria of our history and worldruin
a show for an audience on the other side of the sky
we never hear hiss or applaud or laugh through their tears.

I walk home haunted by such silence.

The Long Night

Now waves grow grim and wash
family flotsam from summer's beaches
with all traces of children's flights from summer surf
as my bones sense the long night coming.

Otters hunt and play in autumn's wavewrack
on offshore rocks as though
only lives lived on the edge are worth living
as the long night comes.

Pelicans roost on top of wind-sheared cypresses.
Skeins of cormorants weave past buoys of gulls
that bob above the kelp beds seal and dolphin thread
as the long night comes.

Silence claims Plough and Tractor and Reaper:
cutcrushedstrainedgrapes ferment in vats
and barns burst with those fattened for slaughter
who howl as the long night comes.

All too soon the land bares its brown bones.
The sky drains of blue as a sieve of water.
Nothing is seen but a wind-whipped froth of surf
as the long night comes.

Be at peace, I tell myself, as my mind lofts
with spread wings above the horizon
where I can see the sun go on falling as long
as the long night comes.

Friends and holiday scents fill the house
as I come in and smile and smile and
speak of the long day to come
as the long night wraps us in its arms.

Winter Equinox 2020

Impossible Contradictions

The stars blow about
sparks in a still dark room,
or dust motes in a daylit space
adrift in their own light.

They are sharp as sadness
before it dulls to an ache,
adrift in a universe
we would see

at the speed of light
brilliant as the original flame.
So night hoards a light
to outshine all others

just as our future, past, joys, griefs
drift through our dim lives
with a hidden brilliance
that makes our blindness glow.