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.



Through the winter

Willa collects leaves from the sidewalk.

On the bus ride home she decides to keep them

through the winter.

At home she lays them on a towel in the bathroom 

so they can be near running water and 

feel the warmth of steam.

Held up by hands of the dead,

I write by candle light while 

the moon sinks down.

My body mirrors the old trees,

becoming conversant with the wind,

branches occasionally dropping off.

Asleep in the big bed, a girl and a kitten 

mesh their dreams 

of forests and fish. 

Awake, I worry the parent's worry, 

how to keep the child safe 

and kindle a sense of wonder.

Buried deep in winter’s dark body, 

the dead grasses dream of

a windy green ocean.

And even with the moon gone, 

the stars continue as golden engines 

speaking in voices we cannot hear.


The Mystery

See the mystery surrounding 

The old cricket 

Even as the fall blossomed.


Happy to move through

The late day jumping a little.

Maybe speaking 

With other crickets

Or maybe not.

Feeling the stars climbing

Through ribs of sky

The old fiddler is ready to die 

Having played music bathed 

In moonlight on so many nights.

Playing in the final days 

There are moments of ecstasy 

Like the ones that they knew 

As a child when the green 

Notes first came.


The cooling has begun.

It begins to slow things.

Air a little thinner

Night a little darker

Stars a little deeper.

As the great song slows

In the cold mornings

Some break away.


Their deviant subset

Does not play for others.

They play for the red planet

Flashing in its arc.

Unknown to many

They also bow of companionship

With the souls of the leaves

That are slowly falling.

At sunset, the city crickets all listen

To the song of a country cricket who lived alone 

A thousand grass miles out

On the banks of an elder spring

And still played each star soaked night.


Even as they drink drops 

From the bent backs of grass

They know that the great peace

Will pull them from their bodies soon.


Now we are moving away

From the sun

And the warmth

Is sinking into the earth. 

Goodbye green days.

We will sit by the embers 

And sing songs while we wait 

Through the long darkness

For you to return.



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.


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.