Village Voice: Celebrating the Work of Dorianne Laux

08.14.20

On the latest episode of the Village Voice, I spoke with Jim and Margery on Boston Public Radio about poet extraordinaire, Dorianne Laux. Her poetry is assessable, yet complex. Sensuous, subtly powerful, and full of striking insights and revelations about everyday life.

Dorianne Laux’s sixth collection, Only As the Day is Long: New and Selected Poems was named a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and is a Pushcart Prize winner.

Read along to the poems featured on this episode:

This Close
In the room where we lie, light
stains the drawn shades yellow.
We sweat and pull at each other, climb
with our fingers the slippery ladders of rib.
Wherever our bodies touch, the flesh
comes alive. Heat and need, like invisible
animals, gnaw at my breasts, the soft
insides of your thighs. What I want
I simply reach out and take, no delicacy now,
the dark human bread I eat handful
by greedy handful. Eyes, fingers, mouths,
sweet leeches of desire. Crazy woman,
her brain full of bees, see how her palms curl
into fists and beat the pillow senseless.
And when my body finally gives in to it
then pulls itself away, salt-laced
and arched with its final ache, I am
so grateful I would give you anything, anything.
If I loved you, being this close would kill me.

What’s Broken
The slate black sky. The middle step
of the back porch. And long ago

my mother’s necklace, the beads
rolling north and south. Broken

the rose stem, water into drops, glass
knobs on the bedroom door. Last summer’s

pot of parsley and mint, white roots
shooting like streamers through the cracks.

Years ago the cat’s tail, the bird bath,
the car hood’s rusted latch. Broken

little finger on my right hand at birth—
I was pulled out too fast. What hasn’t

been rent, divided, split? Broken
the days into nights, the night sky

into stars, the stars into patterns
I make up as I trace them

with a broken-off blade
of grass. Possible, unthinkable,

the cricket’s tiny back as I lie
on the lawn in the dark, my heart

a blue cup fallen from someone’s hands.

Under the Stars
When my mother died
I was as far away
as I could be, on an arm of land
floating in the Atlantic
where boys walk shirtless
down the avenue
holding hands, and gulls sleep
on the battered pilings,
their bright beaks hidden
beneath one white wing.

Maricopa, Arizona. Mea Culpa.
I did not fly to see your body
and instead stepped out
on a balcony in my slip
to watch the stars turn
on their grinding wheel.
Early August, the ocean,
a salt-tinged breeze.

Botanists use the word
serotinous to describe
late-blossoming, serotinal
for the season of late-summer.
I did not write your obituary
as my sister requested, could
not compose such final lines:
I closed the piano
to keep the music in. Instead

I stood with you
on what now seems
like the ancient deck
of a great ship, our nightgowns
flaring, the smell of dying lilacs
drifting up from someone’s
untended yard, and we
listened to the stars hiss
into the bent horizon, blossoms
the sea gathered tenderly, each
shattered and singular one
long dead, but even so, incandescent,
making a singed sound, singing
as they went.

This episode first aired on Boston Public Radio | August 10th, 2020.