CarolersYour open mouths laughing, you walk
toward me, three girls with your young
mom, all grinning through me, making me
ache a bit as when I’ve tweaked the bad
knee and can’t quite breathe, seeing you
pass flushed with song under street lamps
(as maybe never before or again), and
sorry I won’t live eons with your bright
side-looks as you laugh off some old
fight—loud tears, then a wet embrace.
I would hold you all just long enough
to revive Walker Evans and let him
shove a fresh plate into his view
camera while the first flakes curl past,
but he and his unfamous women and men
are engaged with serious entropy. He’d
want to get your mother’s dark eyes
searing into distance as she keeps the tune
and remembers things she never spoke,
even to you. With your long strides,
your breath-clouds and voices, how
would he ever catch you, if he rose?
When she see his shoes,
my friend says, his beaten,
pinching shoes, she’ll forgive
a man almost anything.
Not me. I’ve nursed
a few complaints. One fraud
who leaned across a desk,
fulminating in the sad remains
of a college meeting, kept teeth
by cursing me in what seemed
a bad spot to throw a punch.
So today I’ll forgive him,
who has grayed into his
poor reward. Easier still,
the various thieves, addicts all,
who took car batteries, saws,
an old lawn mower, bikes--
long gone, replaced or not.
Secret hurts, odd slights
stick deeper, but pale beside
the creased faces of those
with real griefs. Is ten years
enough for forgiveness? Fifty?
After a rape? After a mine
long buried blinds a child,
takes her legs? Too soon,
I guess, for a family struck
at a wedding by a bot fired
from a desert a world away
at their grainy image on a screen.
Then along comes Malala,
scarred, blown halfway to the next
life for daring to read, and she
declines even a year’s supply
of the venom she’s owed.
So young, she gets the cowed
pawn that pulled the trigger.
She’s watched his face twist
and seen already the state
of his last ragged shoes.
DesireYou come downstairs in the black dress
and I forget again what I’m looking for--
--glasses of course--and what I meant
to look up (a box score or the toll
from drone strikes in villages remote
and unpronounceable so only data
and grim photos let us hold them
for an instant, let us see what
hell we’ve dropped from what
robotic flake of sky. On whom).
You walk just as you have since
the vigils of our first days, those
trials that won no peace and kept
so few awake to “secret” wars
and gun deals. The big sleep
wasn’t ever the death of one
but millions made numb. Yet
you walk toward a bright table
in a real kitchen where I search
and fuss and your slow walking
has another walk within it--no
sashay, but a sultry march, a bit
of a backbeat, a cymbal sizzle
and snare pop, like a second line
in New Orleans that stepped right
into a demonstration, no less rhythmic,
but a longer parade route. Now
you walk through the open gate
of my arms. I fold around you
and find glasses in my hand.
Your breath stirs your voice
from its box as a faint breeze
shifts a curtain. We strain
toward words that seep out
without the carriage of speech,
almost without sound, itself,
but made entirely of wit.
Busy, chatty friends at lunch,
we wonder if we’ve missed
a joke or if your lungs lack
the strength to drive thought
home. Before you married,
you lived in poor parishes,
always nudging a battle
toward truce, an argument
toward quiet. In San Salvador,
in the decade of killers (which
years will they not claim?)
you photographed a small girl
weeping. Later, your verses
entered the scene as softly
as words slip from your throat.
If she’s dodged the Junta
and then the gangs, tonight
she may be heading home
from a market, leading a child
with the same oceanic eyes.
Your small utterance still
eases in and pleads their case.
Copyright © 2014 Michael Lauchlan
Michael Lauchlan’s poems have appeared in many publications including New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, English Journal, and Tower Journal and have been included in Abandon Automobile, from WSU Press and in A Mind Apart, from Oxford. Lauchlan’s collection, Trumbull Ave., is forthcoming from WSU Press.