“Those who are well fed will never understand those who are not.”
—Evangelia Karakaxa, 15, Greece
NY Times, Apr. 18, 2013
Better to come along when the green world
hides its scars than endure the hail
of stony bullets, the welter of cell-
bearing meteors from the asteroid belt.
Better after the idea of tree has spread,
roots grinding rock into soil, leaves
and needles making life from air,
sun, water. Better not to scratch
in Greek dust during spring of the wrong
millennium or come of age a Polish Jew
in the thirties. Better, I suppose,
to live before seas swallow Manhattan
and half of Brooklyn even if you owe
50 grand in student loans and wait
tables. Cataclysmic stones and
the havoc we make of history
fall on just and unjust, on tired kids
digging out sisters and mothers
after a collapse in Dhaka, on gap-toothed
factory towns, on the pond scum
who live so well off the rest of us
and seem to sleepwalk through it all.
My student rose from hardwood—
his element (as though he’d lugged
maples to the mill and planed them
to fit together in a court of bedlam)—
and nailed a three as time wound down
and his crazed classmates roiled the air.
But he for a time suspended saw
only a rim in an ocean of air. For him,
should walls open and trees,
streetlights, and all the mileroads
to the river swim into view, only
a rim would obtain. For years
he’s practiced seeing an orange bar
hang from nothing, practiced hearing
nothing, thinking, for a snip of time,
nothing and then letting waves
of sound and thought rush back in
without seeming to flinch. Today
I sit at a keyboard, counting breaths
and watching a thing take its shape
on a page, holding in my hands
nothing at all. Nothing at all.
After a Shooting
Cold as hell, we head to an old
conservatory since we need
to go somewhere and the dead
need nothing. We can’t think
while walking into wind. Heat
stuns as we enter the tropics,
a welter of succulents, a screw pine
dropping suckers that root in the dirt
and support a vast trunk. A cactus
climbing the aluminum frame
presses against ceiling panes.
Shuffling in black scarf and coat,
a silent grandma follows
her loud brood, raising eyes
to oranges afloat in the green.
Above a wishing pond where coins
doze in a foot of water, orchids
shriek from stone perches. I lean
at a rail. A girl on a bench stares.
Breathing is no easy thing.
Michael Lauchlan’s poems have appeared in many publications, including New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, English Journal, Innisfree, Thrush, The Tower Journal, Nimrod, The Dark Horse, Apple Valley Review, and The Cortland Review, 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.