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Michael Lauchlan has contributed to many publications, including New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Sugar House Review, Louisville Review, and Poet Lore and Poetry Ireland. His most recent collection is Trumbull Ave., from WSU Press (2015).
Arrangement for Voices and Landscape
By Michael Lauchlan

We shift our assortment of slate 
and granite as required by shrubs’

fortunes, the mortality of grasses, 
the propensity of dirt to slide 
in a downpour and rise in wind, 

having to be always constrained 
by roots, by some greater gravity.
The work is real and blunt as truth. 

I plunk down a speckled ball 
unearthed by a sewer repair crew. 
When you wrinkle your nose,

I lift it and bear it off again
in search of its needful spot.

What can still be said 
by a man bellowing from a garden? 

Little. I need voices to name
scars I might wear but don’t,

need a sanity that includes even 
our wild neighbor, a driveway away. 

She rages at her boyfriend in the rent 
night, and her fury penetrates brick, 
wends past the eyelids of dreams. 

Think of our friend, wintering 
in a razor-wired prison yard, 
filling his notebooks with vast lines. 

Sharp and clear on the outside
his sprung voice sustains.

He’d say, carry the stone and wait 
until earth wants it back. 

And you, my lover and fellow 
landscaper, speak into my ear 

and nudge me toward the void 
where a word must drop

Map Challenged
By Michael Lauchlan

and lost in the jargon of a strange 
town’s streets, I’m at the mercy 
of women in a lucite shelter--
Uptown or Down, West 
or East, and where to transfer?
They smile, explain, and point,
offer transit help in a Boston 
lilt, then take me by the hand 
to a kiosk in a terminal. Can the heart 
so freely disclose its secrets? 
A guest, I study the lexicon, remit 
a fee, and squeeze through a turnstile.
Each route’s avenues unroll 
names--stories embedded--as I blink 
in momentary innocence. At home, 
I look for the long gone 
Algier’s Motel when I ride past.
I pause for a breath at Miller Road, 
where hunger strikers died,
and again downtown, where King
first unclasped a dream.