Hush – 4
he is mourner and bitter
in time beneath pardon.
Long glasses fill
to the neck where they began
until the table is liquid.
She is less a bullet
than the trigger dispersed.
His voice is a hand
cupping the ocean he holds in his
hand. He bends into margin
for a minute and says
love to a wife but it isn’t
love that has fallen into the glass.
Just a mouth wearing a fiction.
He sighs and says
he’ll be home on his white legs
but lands instead
where he’s willing to feather
and wing each passage
and swallow each way of pretending.
My Ever-Loving Heart
From so far away, I hear
the slight flap of his laugh.
It is as if I’ve peeled open.
Each of my nights his language unpacks
in my head, becomes ocean
or measure, something on loan.
I take the clock and the book, respond
to the yawn and scorn of conscience.
Everything anyone writes
at strange hours could change a life. I know this.
But I’ve picked his name, clicked it again
before the mute night.
In the lantern of 4,500 miles, all his children
sleep beneath castle walls,
remain under blankets under the din
of the damn constellations.
The sky leans on the cracked
stone of his home, then exits from view.
He types from a liminal side of our marble sky,
always using white space and extra honey
at the end. Each afternoon, I walk through
two back doors to answer what’s left —
if I’m lucky, the X at the bottom. Nothing
to hold to but prepositions (if, but, so),
half-opened glyphs without subject or humor.
I keep re-reading replies in the paradox
of setback. What I want is not only,
but extra. The rest of my day
is sentence-stroke spent in transition.
I shake words from my palm. The hand writes
particulars then shifts to be left alone.
The Night Clouds Wrestled the Sky
At that moment, I was blind to the sorrow
and stop that was coming. For that gentle hour, I settled
into the only split in the road
where I still saw the purple reflection of day
slipping from cedar and aspen. Air temperature as skin would shift
to bare and brisk. But in the sky, unguarded
orange shadows advanced, and clouds extended
to unkempt corners, the desert’s chambers of gray. Trees unfurled their fluted, five-petaled,
veined fingers. Precision worth noting.
What else should we look at but fugitive color,
the shape that’s not empty? So little of what happens belongs to us,
only the frequent sense of being encircled.
After light was stripped from the scarlet wall,
a string of birds armed long branches, rhapsodizing. I had entered the chatter-
curved worship of their bursting, the song grafted
to the moon’s musky discipline.
Once their noise was placed, it remained in my mind — for years. Not a coincidence
that I heard and saw a final stray sweep of sun
as pigment and chord, and would summon it again
next time I was swallowed, beat down. That night the sky came up to my lips.
It tasted of wind, and gave me something to miss.
Lauren Camp is the author of two books of poems, The Dailiness (Edwin E. Smith, 2013) and This Business of Wisdom (West End Press, 2010). She was a juror for the 2014 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and guest editor for special sections in World Literature Today (on international jazz poetry) and Malpaís Review (on the poetry of Iraq). Her poems have been published in Brilliant Corners, Beloit Poetry Journal, Linebreak, The Quotable and other journals. Lauren is a producer and host on Santa Fe Public Radio, and also an acclaimed visual artist. www.laurencamp.com
Q: If you could create a soundtrack for your poem(s), what would it be?
A: Some combination of Thelonious Monk and other rhythmic, even contrapuntal, melodies. But my soundtrack would also need to include some Middle Eastern music. Not the droning sounds, and no vocals, but the unusual time signatures. I might also need some good hand percussion and bass clarinet. Whatever the music, there would need to be improvisation, some turns and slumps — not an even 4/4 constant rhythm. My poems don’t match that rhythm.
Q: As a visual artist, tell us more about fugitive colors – and how they connect with your poetry.
A: Fugitive colors, or non-permanent pigments, evaporate or disappear over time. Though I hope my poems won’t do this, I believe the direction and meaning of my poems shift with repeated readings, or over the course of the poem. My poems, too, can be volatile, running toward or away from the very thing I might be considering in the work.
Q: What did you collect as a child—rocks, insects, stamps?—and why?
A: I collected stamps for a little while. I’m not sure how or why I started. My father donated some from the Middle East. Those were especially wonderful. I kept the collection in an old Snoopy lunchbox; it was like a secret treasure — all that miniature splendor, combining words and colors. Thinking about it now, I realize these stamps were my first art collection.
Q: Discuss your process as a poet, what sparks a poem and how you work it through to completion (or abandonment.)
A: Anything can spark a poem, even though finishing can seem nearly implausible at the start. Thoroughly impatient as I can be, I’m also an avid reviser. I believe in waiting, letting the work lie fallow… not abandoning it, but offering it (and me) space to evolve before I come back and consider it again.