Dorianne Laux


Dorianne Laux’s 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, as well as a fine press edition, The Book of Women, from Red Dragonfly Press. She teaches poetry in the MFA Program at North Carolina State University and is founding faculty at Pacific University’s Low Residency MFA Program.

Letters in a Box

Your letters are packed
in an anonymous brown box,
the blurred pictures we took
not suspecting you were, even then,
becoming a ghost.
Our love was massive, a continent
set like a table on the backs
of four elephants. We lived there foolishly,
squandering the days we didn’t know
were scarce, standing on the wooden bridge,
already the hook in your collar, soon to be
hoisted up, already the bulbs
buried in your chest that would bloom
like the lilies on your grave. Our days
were standard: a phone call,
a hurried kiss, a netted bag of oranges
that burst, the bruised globes rolling
between our bare feet.
We didn’t know to ask the favor
of mercy, a few more
unmarshalled mornings
to wake to the sounds of construction,
nails and hammers, drills and saws,
the neighbor’s dog and his abandoned bark.
Commonplace. Would we have touched
one another differently? Said anything other
than what we whispered into
each other’s mouths, our lips
closing over the words, intercepting
our voices: yours, that has all these years
been silent, and mine still trapped
in the cage of your body that floats
ungirdled, beneath the earth.

How long did I stand in the house of this body and stare at the road? – Mirabai

How long did that turbulent week last, those
seven star-strung nights I stood under the Pleiades
in winter, season of my birth, my body young yet,
still a flock of gulls, the ocean at my feet,
froth on fire with green luminescent creatures.
I had no mirrors then, and so could not see
my own lit beauty, the tiny lanterns of my cells
swarming like bees. Even the gristle in me burned
hydrogen bright, golden as I was, every window of me
open, every door. I’ve watched the road and waited
as the hours passed, as the wallpaper curled
and slipped from the plaster and the furniture
settled in the dust, the dresses in my closet
unlaced by white moths. Now I see her
as my sister who will not come back, her face
a clock inside a box, the lid nailed shut.
All that shapely radiance hidden inside
the softly receding years. Though sometimes
remnants of her reappear in candlelight,
in firelight, smolder behind a wing of gray
uncombed hair fallen over one blue eye.