Dear Friends,

I have gathered a selection of my poetry from the last twenty-five years into a book called THE SEASONS. (You can preview or order the book here.)

I am grateful to everyone who has read and responded to the poems over the years. I will continue posting my new work here and in twenty-five years (or less) I will have book number two ready for you.



Very soon . . .


                                                                   Kevin Lawler 1927-2020

 . . . after my dad took his last breath,

and his heart stopped sending 

warmth throughout,

his head turned ashen

and became cold to the touch.

I know this because I kissed his forehead.

I couldn’t believe

that the light filled universe,

so miraculously grown 

inside his skull,

was falling dark so quickly

as I sat and quietly watched.

Across the park from the nursing home 

are the sacred burial mounds of the Dakota Tribe.  

They are on the edge of high bluffs 

that look out over the Mississippi River

and the buildings of downtown St. Paul.

The mounds have been there for thousands of years

and the bluffs themselves are 450 million years old.

When my dad was born

the rural electrification project 

had not yet strung electricity 

out to the farms on the Irish ridge. 

In the winter, if there was a heavy snow, 

they would take the children 

to the one room schoolhouse 

in a horse drawn sleigh.

The day before he died,

while my sister sat with him,

I walked to the bluff and watched 

the dark snow fill the river valley

and overtake the city.

I will not forget this vision 

until my memories go dark.

In his last days my dad 

folded his hands, as in prayer,

and waited patiently 

as his breathing became labored.

While I sat by his side

I caressed his arm and held his hand.

Things we never did in life.

I gave him cold compresses

and wet his mouth with a small sponge 

on the end of a short stick.

Once he could no longer articulate words 

he stayed mostly at rest,

only shifting against the harsh discomforts

of lying in bed for so many days,
but at several points on his last day
he spun his forefingers 

in a circle by his chest
and then extended one arm up 

and pointed to the ceiling. 

This, to my understanding,
was his way of saying that he was waiting 

for his soul to get free of his failing body. 

My parents had purchased burial plots

on a bluff across the river.

When they went bankrupt, 

years ago, they had to sell them.

Now their bodies are one on top of the other

in the Fort Snelling National Cemetery

where they were given a plot for free 

because of my father’s military service. 

The bluffs are made of limestone and sandstone. 

When I was a small boy my father 

took me down to the river 

early one Saturday morning

and we collected the soft 

white sand at the base of the cliffs

and brought it home to fill 

a sandbox that he had built. 

In my childhood I would sit 

there for hours and play,

making up worlds.

In the last few years

my dad asked me to keep writing.

Over and and over he would ask,

every time that we spoke.

So this is what I am writing today.

My grief is slow moving

like the river. 

Sometimes it feels like 

it's taking something away and 

other times bringing something new.

I miss him.

I miss his quiet presence 

in this ceaseless world.


A betrayal

And Elohim created Adam, by William Blake

. . . but the year’s been a long one

with so much disease raging

and my six year old needing 

everything that six year olds need

that my heart and mind have not been strong enough.

I have not been allowed to see my dad

since last winter

and now it’s winter again

and suddenly, this week, they said I could come.

Goggles, rubber gloves, and surgical mask. 

He didn’t recognize me at the door

even after I took off the PPE.

My hair has gray waves 

and is down to my shoulders.

My beard thick with sadness.

I didn’t recognize him either.

A living skeleton. 

I was amazed that he was able to stand and walk.

I think we were both in shock.

I don't think he fully understands the pandemic.

I don't think he understood 

why I wasn't able to come to him for so long.

My heart breaks at what he must have thought.

We sat so quietly through the weekend

as the snow drifted down from dark skies.

A more gentle and kind skeleton 

you will never know.

When we said goodbye he said your visit 

was like a yellow ray of sunshine. 

I know this poem is rough

and I’m not sure why I feel so deeply

that I need to put it out into the world now

but I have not felt poetry in my heart and hands

for so long and after driving 

across the dark prairie

with gray snow and bitter winds

home to my small home

with the half buried halloween skeleton 

illuminated in the frozen garden plot

and all the loneliness

falling from everywhere

I had to write.

And now, it’s like I never left you. 


The Easter Disappearance

On the sun wrapped planet 
people who are incarcerated 
and willing to work
the mass graves
get a raise from $1.50 to $6/hr.

They stack the coffins 
three high in a trench
so close to the sea.

The cities
in the distance
are filled with sirens. 

        *  *  *

On the plains 
wind runs across
the black fields 

shaking the pools of water 
that formed where the night deer stumbled 
like drunks in the mud

while celebrating
clean air

and the disappearance  
of cars.


the poetry of Kevin Lawler

The gift economy . . .
from Wiki - In anthropology and the social sciences, a gift economy is a mode of exchange where valuable goods and services are regularly given without any explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards. Ideally, voluntary and recurring gift exchange circulates and redistributes wealth throughout a community, and serves to build societal ties and obligations.