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
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.