The Poetry of Dorianne Laux, Part 1
for HoneyaAfter the stroke all she could say
was Venezuela, pointing to the pitcher
with its bright blue rim, her one word
command. And when she drank the clear
water in and gave the glass back,
it was Venezuela again, gratitude,
maybe, or the word now simply
a sigh, like the sky in the window,
the pillows a cloudy definition
propped beneath her head. Pink roses
dying on the bedside table, each fallen
petal a scrap in the shape of a country
she'd never been to, had never once
expressed interest in, and now
it was everywhere, in the peach
she lifted, dripping, to her lips,
the white tissue in the box, her brooding
children when they came to visit,
baptized with their new name
after each kiss. And at night
she whispered it, dark narcotic
in her husbands ear as he bent
to listen, her hands fumbling
at her buttons, her breasts,
holding them up to the light
like a gift. Venezuela, she said.
GRAVEYARD AT HURD'S GULCHHis grave is strewn with litter again,
crumpled napkins, a plastic spoon, white
styrofoam cup tipped on its side, bright
half-moon of lipstick on the rim.
I want to scold her for the mess she's left,
the flattened grass and squashed grapes,
but I've seen her walking toward the trees,
her hollow body receding, her shadow
following behind. I'm the intruder,
come not to mourn a specific body
but to rest under a tree, my finger tracing
the rows of glowing marble,
the cloud-covered hips of the hills.
I always take the same spot,
next to the sunken stone that says MOTHER,
the carved dates with the little dash between them,
a brief, deep cut, like a metaphor for life.
Does she whisper, I wonder, to the one
she loves, or simply eat and sleep, content
for an hour above the bed of his bones?
I think she brings him oranges and secrets,
her day's torn and intricate lace.
I have no one on this hill to dine with.
I'm blessed. Everyone I love is still alive.
I know there is no God, no afterlife,
but there is this peace, the granite angel
with the moss-covered wings whose face
I have grown to love, her sad smile
like that sadness we feel after sex,
those few delirious hours when we needed nothing
but breath and flesh, after we've flown back
into ourselves, our imperfect heavy bodies,
just before that terrible hunger returns.