Eventually the future shows up everywhere:
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.
Her most recent collections are The Book of Men and Facts about the Moon. A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and winner of the Oregon Book Award and The Roanoke-Chowan Award for Poetry, Laux is also author of Awake, What We Carry, and Smoke from BOA Editions. She teaches poetry in the MFA Program at North Carolina State University and is founding faculty at Pacific University’s Low Residency MFA Program.
I wanted to be Cher, tall
as a glass of iced tea,
her bony shoulders draped
with a curtain of dark hair
that plunged straight down,
the cut tips brushing
her non-existent butt.
I wanted to wear a lantern
for a hat, a cabbage, a piñata
and walk in thigh high boots
with six inch heels that buttoned
up the back. I wanted her
rouged cheek bones and her
throaty panache, her voice
of gravel and clover, the hokum
of her clothes: black fishnet
and pink pom-poms, frilled
halter tops, fringed bells
and her thin strip of waist
with the bullet hole navel.
Cher standing with her skinny arm
slung around Sonny’s thick neck,
posing in front of the Eiffel Tower,
The Leaning Tower of Pisa,
The Great Wall of China,
The Crumbling Pyramids, smiling
for the camera with her crooked
teeth, hit-and-miss beauty, the sun
bouncing off the bump on her nose.
Give me back the old Cher,
the gangly, imperfect girl
before the shaving knife
took her, before they shoved
pillows in her tits, injected
the lumpy gel into her lips.
Take me back to the woman
I wanted to be, stalwart
and silly, smart as her lion
tamer’s whip, my body a torch
stretched the length of the polished
piano, legs bent at the knee, hair
cascading down over Sonny’s blunt
fingers as he pummeled the keys,
singing in a sloppy alto
the oldest, saddest songs.
Editor: Eileen Moeller
Dorianne Laux’s poems bring a gravitas and solidity to the ordinary aspects of American life, transforming and making them numinous, instructive, cause for celebration. Her work is brutally honest, and yet full of a compassion that can transform the difficult aspects of our daily lives, make them seem more beautiful, funny, lyrical, deeply human, clearly meaningful.
I love that she writes about Cher and Mick Jagger, about waitressing in the 60’s, about old boyfriends, about being a strong woman growing up in the 60's, about surviving in the millennium, working through the existential issues that plague us all. Laux is a poet beloved to many of us in the U.S., and one of our most generous, most effective teachers.
This week's editor, Eileen Moeller, lives in Philadelphia, PA. Her poetry blog, titled, And So I Sing: Poems and Iconography is at http://eileenmoeller.blogspot.com
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