“Only as the Day Is Long” by Dorianne Laux

Soon she will be no more than a passing thought,
a pang, a timpani of wind in the chimes, bent spoons
hung from the eaves on a first night in a new house
on a street where no dog sings, no cat visits
a neighbor cat in the middle of the street, winding
and rubbing fur against fur, throwing sparks.

Her atoms are out there, circling the earth, minus
her happiness, minus her grief, only her body’s
water atoms, her hair and bone and teeth atoms,
her fleshy atoms, her boozy atoms, her saltines
and cheese and tea, but not her piano concerto
atoms, her atoms of laughter and cruelty, her atoms
of lies and lilies along the driveway and her slippers,
Lord her slippers, where are they now?


“Only as the Day Is Long” by Dorianne Laux. Copyright © 2015 by Dorianne Laux. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 4, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

4 thoughts on ““Only as the Day Is Long” by Dorianne Laux

    1. Me too, Barbara. When my mom died, I gave most of her clothes and shoes to a local women’s shelter…she had soooo many beautiful colorful suits that she wore for her real estate sales work. I often wonder who has those suits now…are they working? Did they interview and get the job because they felt confident in their new clothes? Have they found success, freedom, independence? Do her atoms cling to the jacket linings and unknowingly bring strength and grit to the women who now wear them? I’ll never know. Sigh. She’ll always be more than a passing thought, as long as I’m alive, but one day we will all return to the stardust from whence we came.

      Love to you and your husband…I have been reading up on Lewy body. I can’t even imagine how difficult things are for you both. I hope the fact that you are getting some help with the caregiving is helping your spirit, and your sleep, if even slightly. Again, if we here can do anything, you know we will. ❤ Christy


  1. Dorianne Laux speaks to me as no other contemporary poet does. She reveals the extraordinary value of those things we mistakenly call commonplace, and she does so with an attitude of love for life that, so far as I can tell, never decays into cynicism.

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    1. Beautifully put, John, I couldn’t agree more. Even in her gas-pumping stories (she was a gas attendant early in her life), there’s such a love and appreciation for life.

      Laux is one of my favorite poets, if not my very favorite; although, depending on my mood, some days Linda Pastan edges out Laux when I do lean toward the dark or cynical. I found Laux’s work after my mother died, and felt such kinship with Dorianne, such gratitude that she could put the feelings I had into beautiful empathetic words.

      I was trying to think if I could recall any cynicism in Laux’s work. The only two I could come up with were “Dust” and “After Twelve Days of Rain.” But even then, I’m not sure it was as much cynicism as it was a resigned acceptance, a pragmatism in calling it like it is. Because sometimes we ARE too tired to get up and open the window, even when God stands on the other side with all the answers. And when you get right down to it, we all get older and we really are all alone–that’s cynicism, it’s just truth.

      And don’t we all just long for someone to tell us the truth?


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