Moon In the Window

February 4, 2020

I wish I could say I was the kind of child
who watched the moon from her window,
would turn toward it and wonder.
I never wondered. I read. Dark signs
that crawled toward the edge of the page.
It took me years to grow a heart
from paper and glue. All I had
was a flashlight, bright as the moon,
a white hole blazing beneath the sheets.

Dorianne Laux

Dark Charms

January 26, 2020

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.

Dorianne Laux

Poetry is an intimate act. It’s about bringing forth something that’s inside you – whether it is a memory, a philosophical idea, a deep love for another person or for the world, or an apprehension of the spiritual. It’s about making something, in language, which can be transmitted to others – not as information, or polemic, but as irreducible art.

Dorianne Laux
The Poet’s Companion: A Guide To The Pleasures Of Writing Poetry

magically burst forth

January 19, 2020

Writing and reading are the only ways to find your voice. It won’t magically burst forth in your poems the next time you sit down to write, or the next, but little by little, as you become aware of more choices and begin to make them – consciously and unconsciously – your style will develop.

Dorianne Laux
The Poet’s Companion: A Guide To The Pleasures Of Writing Poetry

Antilamentation

January 18, 2020

Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
Not the insipid movies that made 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 punchline, 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 livingroom 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 its 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 travelled 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 upstairs
window. Harmless as a broken axe. 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.

Dorianne Laux
The Book of Men

the true intensity of life

January 16, 2020

We…talk of the purpose of art and poetry, and how when we read a poem or look at a painting we are led into the true intensity of life, the one right here as we walk down the street and are struck again, as if for the first time, by the changing of the leaves from green to gold, that brief glimpse into the final hallway. Maybe the purpose of art is to help us apprehend the loud silences, the shimmering depths, the small intensities of ants going about their business, tunnelling out whole cities beneath our sidewalks, and awake us to the absolute mystery that is life. Art asks us to contemplate death rather than to simply imagine it or even press ourselves up against it as we do in our youth. It’s coming, no matter how fast we run from it or toward it, and art asks us to stop and confront death rather than being merely tolerant of, tempted or titillated by it.

Dorianne Laux
Interview in The Smoking Poet (Winter 2010-2011 Issue)

The Lovers

November 27, 2015

The Lovers Konstantin Andreevic Somov

She is about to come. This time,
they are sitting up, joined below the belly,
feet cupped like sleek hands praying
at the base of each other’s spines.
And when something lifts within her
toward a light she’s sure, once again,
she can’t bear, she opens her eyes
and sees his face is turned away,
one arm behind him, hand splayed
palm down on the mattress, to brace himself
so he can lever his hips, touch
with the bright tip the innermost spot.
And she finds she can’t bear it —
not his beautiful neck, stretched and corded,
not his hair fallen to one side like beach grass,
not the curved wing of his ear, washed thin
with daylight, deep pink of the inner body —
What she can’t bear is that she can’t see his face,
not that she thinks this exactly — she is rocking
and breathing — it’s more her body’s thought,
opening, as it is, into its own sheer truth.
So that when her hand lifts of its own volition
and slaps him, twice on the chest,
on that pad of muscled flesh just above the nipple,
slaps him twice, fast, like a nursing child
trying to get a mother’s attention,
she’s startled by the sound,
though when he turns his face to hers —
which is what her body wants, his eyes
pulled open, as if she had bitten —
she does reach out and bite him, on the shoulder,
not hard, but with the power infants have
over those who have borne them, tied as they are
to the body, and so, tied to the pleasure,
the exquisite pain of this world.
And when she lifts her face he sees
where she’s gone, knows she can’t speak,
is traveling toward something essential,
toward the core of her need, so he simply
watches, steadily, with an animal calm
as she arches and screams, watches the face that,
if she could see it, she would never let him see.

Dorianne Laux

Vacation Sex

November 18, 2015

sex-in-bed

We’ve been at it all summer, from the Canadian border
to the edge of Mexico, just barely keeping it American
but doing okay just the same, in hotels under overpasses
or rooms next to ice machines, friends’ fold-out couches,
in-laws’ guest quarters—wallpaper and bedspreads festooned
with nautical rigging, tiny life rings and coiled tow ropes—

even one night in the car, the plush backseat not plush
enough, the door handle giving me an impromptu
sacro-cranial chiropractic adjustment, the underside
of the front seat strafing the perfect arches of his feet.
And one long glorious night in a cabin tucked in the woods
where our crooning and whooping started the coyotes

singing. But the best was when we got home, our luggage
cuddled in the vestibule—really just a hallway
but because we were home it seemed like a vestibule—
and we threw off our vestments, which were really
just our clothes but they seemed like garments, like raiment,
like habits because we felt sorely religious, dropping them

one by one on the stairs: white shirts, black bra, blue jeans,
red socks, then stood naked in our own bedroom, our bed
with its drab spread, our pillows that smelled like us:
a little shampoo-y, maybe a little like myrrh, the gooseberry
candle we light sometimes when we’re in the mood for mood,
our own music and books and cap off the toothpaste and cat

on the window seat. Our window looks over a parking lot—
a dental group—and at night we can hear the cars whisper
past the 24-hour Albertson’s where the homeless couple
buys their bag of wine before they walk across the street
to sit on the dentist’s bench under a tree and swap it
and guzzle it and argue loudly until we all fall asleep.

Dorianne Laux

The Tooth Fairy

November 16, 2015

Faery_ Brian Froud_Alan Lee
They brushed a quarter with glue
and glitter, slipped in on bare
feet, and without waking me,
painted rows of delicate gold
footprints on my sheets with a love
so quiet, I still can’t hear it.

My mother must have been
a beauty then, sitting
at the kitchen table with him,
a warm breeze lifting her
embroidered curtains, waiting
for me to fall asleep.

It’s harder to believe
the years that followed, the palms
curled into fists, a floor
of broken dishes, her chainsmoking
through long silences, him
punching holes in his walls.

I can still remember her print
dresses, his checkered taxi, the day
I found her in the closet
with a paring knife, the night
he kicked my sister in the ribs.

He lives alone in Oregon now, dying
slowly of a rare disease.
His face stippled gray, his ankles
clotted beneath wool socks.

She’s a nurse on the graveyard shift.
Comes home mornings and calls me.
Drinks her dark beer and goes to bed.

And I still wonder how they did it, slipped
that quarter under my pillow, made those
perfect footprints…

Whenever I visit her, I ask again.
“I don’t know”, she says, rocking, closing
her eyes. “We were as surprised as you.”

Dorianne Laux

(Dorianne Laux’s fifth collection, The Book of Men, winner of The Paterson Prize, is available from W.W. Norton. Her fourth book of poems, Facts about the Moon won The Oregon Book Award and was short-listed for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. Laux is also the author of Awake; What We Carry, a finalist for the National Book Critic’s Circle Award. Her website HERE.)