Lottie Lawson by Jill Goldstein



By Jill Goldstein

Assemblage by Ingrid Wernstrom; photo by Jill Goldstein

Part I

Lottie Lawson was the saint of
all things lost and broken.

She spent her days saving things from
right when she’d awoken.

Treasure chests and tiny boxes
spilled forth with all her loot.

Used up pens and lonely gems or
a shoelace from a boot.

Nothing was too small or damaged
to wind up in a box.

Not stickers with no stickiness
or closed and keyless locks.

Her treasures were a testament
to the feeling in her heart.

That everything had beauty
like a tiny piece of art.

So what if the penny whistle
no longer makes a sound.

Or the old and battered watch face
no longer can be wound.

Perhaps we cannot hear it but
the whistle plays its tune.

Perhaps the watch is telling time
by an undiscovered moon.

Lottie was a guardian and,
not just a collector.

Each box was a mini museum
and she was its protector.

At night before she went to bed
She said a special prayer

To all the displaced animals
that needed extra care:

I pray that you don’t ever doubt
the love I have for you.

Don’t listen to the others who
insist that you need glue.

I love you dog who has three legs
And bear with just one arm.

And teeny tiny owl who
used to be a charm.

Unicorn with your missing horn
I know you’re not a horse.

It was not your tail, dear lion,
that gave you strength and force.

Goodnight old mouse I made at school
from fabric that was frayed.

Goodnight every animal in
my animal parade.

Then Lottie tucked each one back in
to its respective place,

Nestled with the fallen feathers
and tiny scraps of lace.

Part II

Lottie felt that all her treasures
held an epic mystery.

As though they guarded secrets of
both time and history.

Her life was like a treasure hunt
only meant for Lottie.

With twists and turns and ziggyzags,
that felt dot-to-dotty.

At school she filled her pockets with
what others threw away.

A single jack, a marble cracked,
a bead made out of clay.

She rescued many buttons that,
through no fault of their own,

Had lost their proper place because
they weren’t rightly sewn.

She heard the murmurs every time
she reached down to the floor.

Words like trash and junk that she tried
with courage to ignore.

At share time Lottie tried to share
the crux of her crusade.

To understand the universe
and why this world was made.

“There’s more than just what’s visible,
of that I feel quite sure.

Are the answers far away or
just hidden and obscure?”

Her words drew stares of blankness as
they fell upon deaf ears.

The meanest of the meanies whispered
hateful, heartless jeers.

She tried to hold her head high and
pretend she did not mind.

But the truth was that she did care
and thought them all unkind.

Back home with all her treasures
Lottie entered her own realm.

Where odds and ends could start anew
and she was at the helm.

As she emptied all her pockets
into a vacant drawer,

She came upon a faint outline
that looked to be a door.

Upon further exploration
a hole came into view.

A spring she’d found just tossed away
slid perfectly right through.

She heard a click then pushed the door
until she felt it yield.

Crouching down she peered inside at
a room she’s just unsealed.

She wriggled through the opening
into a great unknown.

And entered a lost chamber,
someplace secret all her own.

The walls were lined with empty shelves,
from ceiling down to floor.

Strewn here and there were dusty shards,
remains of life before.

Part III

Her mind was freed of clutter as
she wandered through the room.

It felt like she was floating in
a kaleidoscopic womb.

As she sifted through the rubble
she saw a shell that glowed.

As if by force of nature,
Lottie felt this was a code.

With a mix of fear and wonder
she grasped the gleaming shell.

But its glassy feel surprised her
and from her hands it fell.

The beautiful shell lay broken,
a living fossil cracked.

She picked it up amazed to find
both halves remained intact.

In each half small chambers snaked,
twisting tunnels on display.

A wondrous creature from the sea
with wisdom to convey.

The shell held secrets of the world,
of nature, space and time.

Echoes of disorder found in
winding patterns and rhyme.

She transported all her treasures
down to the very last,

Until this room of wonders was
immeasurably vast.

She pulled apart her Russian dolls
and lay them in a line.

From biggest down to tiniest
they had the same design.

Universe in universe,
all nested in each other.

Each one bred a duplicate like
alchemist or mother.

Lottie began to understand
how it all connected.

From cosmos, starts and mountains to
all that she’d collected.

A robot from the future to
an ancient fossil bone,

All attached by magic thread that
eternally is sewn.

Flowers, threads and plastic dolls,
Venus, Earth and Saturn.

Everything that has ever been
carries the same pattern.

To school she brought the nautilus shell,
its wisdom as her guide.

At share time Lottie spoke her mind
with dignity and pride.

“Something does not lose its worth just
because it lost its place.

It is merely disconnected
from its initial space.

The world is made of matrixes
from which we pick and choose.

But everything originates
from patterns we reuse.”

Lottie spoke of the ancient moon
the little man astride.

Galloping through the crashing stars,
the puppeteer of tide.

Here and there some hands went up,
wanting Lottie to explain.

Do sound waves ripple with the winds?
Do all moons wax and wane?

The meanest of the meanies
whispered still their hateful jeers.

But like a spiral in reverse,
they fell upon deaf ears.

Part IV

Back home in her room of wonders
Lottie took a final tour.

She felt the room was finished,
both beautiful and pure.

She comforted a yellow chick
with broken beak and wing.

And out of gauze and masking tape
she fashioned him a sling.

To guard the room, a garland made
of toothpicks shaped like swords.

Strung carefully around the walls
on bits of twine and cords.

She squeezed back through the hidden door
knowing this time was the last.

The secret chamber that she loved
was now part of her past.

She used the spring to lock the door
to keep that world secure.

Until some future form of life
could not resist its lure.

She kept one treasure from the room.
The sacred spiral shell.

To remind her of eternity,
that nothing is farewell.

Lottie Lawson climbed into bed,
a small part of a whole.

And whispered a brief litany
from deep within her soul:

Goodnight relics of times past and 
tomorrows not yet seen.

Goodnight worlds near and faraway
and all those in between.

Goodnight treasures tossed aside,
left to rot and crumble.

Goodnight treasures found again, 
your message bravely humble.

Amidst the ghostly traces of
the wonders Lottie kept

Whether dream or memory,
she snuggled up and slept.


Jill lives in New York City with her husband, 3 kids, a dog and a beetle with a broken wing that her daughter brought home from science class.