The insistent light finds the woman’s bed
as it found a girl leaning on Rembrandt’s half-door,
found Peter and Magdalene in Renaissance shades
of blue and ochre and, mixed on the palette,
that bit of phosphorous that could explode
on a forehead. It is November. Morning
over an alley leaks through a blind and
pours itself over the coverlet and the red,
hip-shaped blanket. At her neck, black silk
demurs but a shock of hair, a cheek reflect
a glow into the sleeping room where,
hungry for light, an orchid sips on air.
Shift at a Teen Club, 1978
In the street outside, no ruckus tears
the night. I walk and let the dog
fly into the pines after rabbits.
Once, on a louder night, I watched
three boys circle a pool table
with knife, cue, and fists. Hands
empty and mind blank, I waded
into the waltz, unsteadying it a bit.
David, short, black, clenched,
oldest of ten in a tiny house
wouldn’t take taunts from blade
waving Ernie or from Chico, his stick
swinging over all our heads. How
could this unfold out of my sight,
but for Ernie’s brother drunk,
begging and pledging to me
in the next room. Lornie—the name,
the face return amid pines—killed
himself at twenty. The others did
time in one hole or another.
That night, we tumbled, whirled
out the door to fill the street
with threats, thrusts, grips. Then
Lornie wrapped arms around not
brother Ernie, but friend David
and held him away from blood
while I ran off the others. The dog
prances back from her chase, glad
for whatever gladdens dogs and I
lurch again toward my porch light.
As the arc of song covers a man, a night,
a woman, lets him kiss her earlobe, makes
her look past his prospects and breath,
lets them shift chairs closer while Steve
plays button box and Pat the bohdran,
the arc covers nations, eases babes
to sleep, sends kids running home
from school and off to jobs, the song
making provisional sense of how we
ebb into an old chair or a bandage
and become a still thing we never were
when Pat’s drum made our legs twitch
and hands find each other, as the words
of each line rolled home true.
The coming blaze mars dreams,
seasons conversation, salts the syntax
of email, and flares when we close
our eyes to drowse on a bus.
The last one seared us. Flames
curling over roads, Rifle shots. Screams.
Bodies lined up neatly, for arrest
or the morgue. The scent of rage
lingered in noses—all fires suspect
and plans absurd. To brave cowards
of old, doom arrived as foul
breath of dragons. What vapor now
rankles us, who’ve seen the rent
fabric, its charred, raveled threads?
Copyright © 2012 Michael
Michael Lauchlan has had
poems in many publications including The Tower Journal,
New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Victory
Park, North American Review, Ninth Letter, Apple Valley
Review, Nimrod, Cider Press, The Cortland Review, Waccamaw, and
Innisfree. He has been included in Abandon Automobile,
from Wayne State University Press and in A Mind Apart, from
Oxford University Press. He has recently been awarded the
Consequence Prize in Poetry.