Lamb

Frannie Lindsay

With elegant restraint and electric imagery, Frannie Lindsay writes about the devotion that binds together a family in pain.  When love is absent, how does caretaking erode? How does it continue?  Each poem in Lamb is a small quest for a right answer, and for a reconciliation between the speaker and her mother and father, and within her body. Throughout the poems, animals serve as expressions of vulnerability and mortality; they are “hapless objects” whose unconditional loyalty, free of familial obligation, teaches the necessary lessons about tenderness and atonement. By caring for animals and then her aging parents, the speaker ultimately releases herself, stepping away from the power her parents hold over her: not in forgiveness, but in a solemn declaration of freedom. Lamb is a deft and memorable portrait of girlhood and aging.

The Ewe Lamb

—2 Samuel 12:3

I raised my one ewe lamb
as a daughter, fed her
red clover, the last hearts
of my cabbage, offered
her inky lips my cup.
She rested her chin
on my neck at night, her hoofs
on my cloak, her breathing
the wind on the waves
of sleep’s pure waters.
Sleep: an animal’s word
for bless: hoof of her heart
to the hoof of my heart.
The dusk before her slaughter
we walked together, pauper
and kin, over the meadow.
I sang to her, then
I unstrung the rusted bell
from her collar.

 

Listen to “The Ewe Lamb,” “Thirty-Year Meditation on an Act of Violence,” “Mother Leaving, 1965,” “Summoning the Whippoorwills,” “Something He Did,” “The Chores,” “Receiving the Host,” and “Walking an Old Woman into the Sea,” read by Frannie Lindsay:

Cover image: Lamb
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Awards

Runner-up for the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets

“The wounded children and animals, the wounded and sometimes wounding elders, can’t (perhaps) thank Frannie Lindsay for these beautiful and original poems, subtle, tender, and of the spirit — but we, her readers, thank her.” —Jean Valentine
“While there is little that is sensational about Lindsay’s writing, the poems aren’t starved of complexity…. The language seems swept clear of pain — like the precise incision of a surgeon who knows her patient is anesthetized…. [But] what is complex enough for any reader is that Lindsay’s ‘self’ is not anesthetized; she wouldn’t be writing poems of such situational heft if she were.” The Southeast Review
“Frannie Lindsay’s Lamb is a sequence of startling perceptual and emotional epiphanies that begin in the dark folds of childhood but open in the end into what I can only call a state of grace. With deft understatement and zero self-pity, she interrogates the wounds of the past, and in so doing manages to transform personal history into a door through which she can pass into new insight, forgiveness, and healing. Stripped down to the hard bones of truth, these poems are adorned only by what’s absolutely essential.” —Chase Twichell
“Frannie Lindsay’s poems about abuse, trauma, and healing transcend their subjects. They are, instead, hymns of praise for the love we are able to wrest from our flawed lives. The delicacy of Lamb is like that of a ballet dancer — underlaid with great strength.” —Ellen Bass

Author photograph by Meg Birnbaum

Frannie Lindsay

Lamb is Frannie Lindsay’s second book. Her sixth book, The Snow’s Wife, is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press in 2020. Her others are If Mercy (The Word Works, 2016), Our Vanishing (Red Hen Press, 2014, winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award), Mayweed (The Word Works, 2009, winner of the Washington Prize), and Where She Always Was (Utah State U. Press, 2004, winner of the May Swenson Award). Her many publications include Best American Poetry 2014. She received the 2008 Missouri Review Prize. Lindsay holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, has been in residence at the MacDowell and Millay Colonies, and at Yaddo, and has held NEA and Massachusetts Cultural Council fellowships. Lindsay is a classical pianist who lives in Massachusetts and offers writing consultations. Visit her at frannielindsay.net.

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