Lauren Camp is the author of two collections. Her third book, One Hundred Hungers won the Dorset Prize (Tupelo Press, 2016). Her poems appear in Poetry International, Slice, The Seattle Review, World Literature Today, Beloit Poetry Journal and elsewhere. Other literary honours include the National Federation of Press Women Poetry Prize, the Margaret Randall Poetry Prize, an Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award, the 2014 RL Poetry Award, and a Black Earth Institute Fellowship. She produces and hosts “Audio Saucepan”—a global music program interwoven with contemporary poetry—on Santa Fe Public Radio. www.laurencamp.com.
Whenever the ravens stop seeming tender,
I decide to walk back and forth
in a place I don’t know to see other people’s photos
hung on their fridges. The fog must roll
over the shape of buildings, and further
out to the repetition of suburbs. I want you to sit
next to me on the plane. Sit in the middle
and let my small chapped words escape
to the crop circles. On my lap, a bag filled
with lunches. I won’t be talking to you then
because of my delicate senses. I sort of know
I will always get there three faint transformations
later in a language dying with thirst. And then,
we will wear boots and buckles. We will choose
where to go by the pleasure, and stay away
from cold nights. You will want to rearrange
people’s postures with the pen in your hand.
I might watch you bruise the paper with ink
as I gather whatever letters fill my mouth,
the alphabet that wants to be heard.
We’ll keep turning corners. We’ll find the park,
the hearth, the forks. I’ll want
to want a lot of things besides this city
growing reflections around us, the city that signals
night as day, day as slow light. Above voices
and heartbeats and limitless streets,
over and over, the sky will boil away.
We might need raincoats to get towards
the infatuation of windows. If we begin
with how long, don’t we need time enough to hear
the world’s music seep down to the street?
Witch’s broom, a half-broken memory.
Formation of ravens as evidence.
It has been sunny for a year
with pages of phrases on the verge
of the sun. This is the respite
from hesitance, and the chance to watch sky
thirsting for heartbroken clouds.
The ground remains nearly expressionless.
The sun has been churning.
Each hour I type nine goodbyes in a white room.
Tomorrow I’ll have something in common
with those who once lived here:
the warm sound of old wounds.
The knife upside-down in the kitchen, the jawbone
on a fence on the hillside, and the man
with a shaker of salt. It will all stay the same.
Wild horses, a hedge of cobwebs.
Now, the man with a needle, pulling out droplets of blood.
The sun lands as ash in the bath.
Our captain, a man with the sun slung to his back,
has painted what might be his single possession – this boat,
a monotonous turquoise. He has proudly stroked
PRECIOSA on the crown. Our trip starts in silence.
It’s a perfect day and we watch the hull trail each lazy
caesura of wave. The water reshapes but won’t claim.
The man recites birds: cormorant, egret, pelican,
in graceful Spanish, and we nod, glad for the words
we can find. There are gaps in our talk where sky
and water scrawl over each other and graft together.
In a tree, I spot a pregnant iguana. After two hours
of gentle riding, our guide knots the boat to a dock
where old men unfurl mended nets. He tells us he’ll wait
as we wander. We walk the small town where the river
swims night after night. In one yard, fish flesh are spread
and drying on racks. Further down, curtains of laundry,
empty of arms, drape weary grass. Noon. The sun,
without speaking, is shouting. The street blazes
and strays. We return to the plaza to sit on stone walls,
unpack our neat lunch from its brown bag and waxed
paper. Boys kick a ball down the concrete court,
and stagger after it, small in their gestures.
Each sandwich is simple: firm pink meat, a packet
of mayo, a white slab of cheese. A mangy brown dog
stands silent and watches our motions. We roll up
our sleeves. His ash eyes hold a dull range of hungers.
A black dog skulks over, lies on the wall as we finish
our cookies. Another, his body sunken.
Every silhouette here is in need, and we have something
to swallow. We count to three, toss what we’ve saved:
bread tails, some lettuce, the tough of an apple.
The dogs pounce at the scraps, at each other,
rabid and focused. They tear at the ground.
This thick air — we’re up, getting out of their way.
We can’t stay, cannot name how different we are
from the slow lip of this town. The boat lurches,
taking us back on the river, tender, immense.
LEATHER WORLD, THIS BIRD, THIS SKY
I came here from temporary
and perpetual rages–the whole sky
of wind. Secret birds
take the ruin of garden.
Hail carefully cuts out
the unseen side, the open veins.
Dirt offers its fragrance
When the nest falls,
I open the twigs and find only
crickets with their gasps
and clicking. For 19 years I have been
driving toward reason—or driving
against and into the sinews
of city: the pile-up
on the interstate, the drums
of hydrochloric acid
near intersections, the suspicion.
Where does it end?
I’ve always understood
what can’t be said, but the man
who complained of kindness
had to apologize. There’s almost
no dialogue between life’s
various promises. Such endeavor,
all of these seasons.
Wind pulls on one wing
then a next—and a finch flies
crooked through its mandolin language.
Suddenly everything verified:
cloud without end.
AWAKE ALL NIGHT. NOT
… awake all night. Not
to tooth, to mistake
oneself. Awake to keep the after-
taste of falling down. Of
what is argued. To keep
the rain as destination. To hear
night pulped, to see parched stars stir
in shadow. To feel one’s skin