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The Poetry of Dorianne Laux

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Dorianne Laux

From The Book of Men, poems by Dorianne Laux


Dark Charms


Eventually the future shows up everywhere:

those burly summers and unslept nights in deep

lines and dark splotches, thinning skin.

Here’s the corner store grown to a condo,

the bike reduced to one spinning wheel,

the ghost of a dog that used to be, her trail

no longer trodden, just a dip in the weeds.

The clear water we drank as thirsty children

still runs through our veins. Stars we saw then

we still see now, only fewer, dimmer, less often.

The old tunes play and continue to move us

in spite of our learning, the wraith of romance,

lost innocence, literature, the death of the poets.

We continue to speak, if only in whispers,

to something inside us that longs to be named.

We name it the past and drag it behind us,

bag like a lung filled with shadow and song,

dreams of running, the keys to lost names.




The Rising


The pregnant mare at rest in the field

the moment we drove by decided

to stand up, rolled her massive body

sideways over the pasture grass,

gathered her latticed spine, curved ribs

between the hanging pots of flesh,

haunches straining, knee bones bent

on the bent grass cleaved

astride the earth she pushed against

to lift the brindled breast, the architecture

of the neck, the anvil head, her burred mane

tossing flames as her forelegs unlatched in air

while her back legs, buried beneath her belly,

set each horny hoof in opposition

to the earth, a counterweight concentrated there,

and by a willful rump and switch of tail hauled up,

flank and fetlock, her beastly burden, seized

and rolled and wrenched and winched the wave

of her body, the grand totality of herself,

to stand upright in the depth of that field.

The heaviness of gravity upon her.

The strength of the mother.





Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read

to the end just to find out who killed the cook, not

the insipid movies that make you cry in the dark,

in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication, not

the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,

the one you beat to the punch line, the door or the one

who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones

that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.

Not the nights you called god names and cursed

your mother, sunk like a dog in the living room couch,

chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.

You were meant to inhale those smoky nights

over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings

across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed

coat with loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.

You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still

you end up here. Regret none of it, not one

of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,

when the lights from the carnival rides

were the only stars you believed in, loving them

for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.

You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,

ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house

after the TV set has been pitched out the window.

Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied of expectation.

Relax. Don’t bother remembering any of it. Let’s stop here,

under the lit sign on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.



To read an interview with Dorianne Laux, visit Talking to Dorianne Laux.

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