Two Poems by L.J. Sysko

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Pearlescent Omnivore

I wonder whether you’ve
seen the toads cringe down between
the mower blade and the lawn

waiting it out—the undercarriage of
Hades, down and down, double-decker
danger with Elysium wavering purple

in the exhaust plume. What the menacing
blades can do, unswerving pathos, toad
mucosity, skin sensitized like a chilled

testicle enervating. Exposure pulling
its taffy tenderly close. Hold an idiot’s
vigil at the window, eyeball the Lawn Man.

How can he be both recalcitrant and
predatory? He keeps merciless,
ambivalent track of his cuts.

Decorative elements in his green
striped wallpaper, we’re left,
in the end, a terrified toad,

an idiot in the window.




Insidious and greedy, the Norway Maples
must be razed—
what’s fledgling must be guarded,
the sign implies.
What’s manifest must be tended. What wants
warmth finds a way.

As the spider in our bed whose bite
woke me and sent me to the bathroom
to turn on the light.
As: the medicine cabinet soliloquy,
I’m not imagining this.
As: the head-scratching return to bed.
As: I saw it
on the mattress curled, playing dead, until
I turned on the lamp and it scurried over the edge.

With the lights on, I see another bite on my ribs.
That must be the first bite—.
Just as I thought. What was the first is the second,
subcutaneous, red.




L.J. Sysko is a poet from Wilmington, Delaware whose work has appeared in Ploughshares, Rattle, and many other print and online journals. An English teacher at Tower Hill School, Ms. Sysko teaches full time, raises her two children full time, fulfills the role of wife full time, and writes full time. This means that she is either: an MFA-trained poet just doing what she loves with one hand while engaging in close combat with all nearby clocks with the other hand or, she fundamentally misunderstands what “full time” means.

Lawnmower on grass photo courtesy Shutterstock. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.