“On the Edge” by Dorianne Laux (repost)

(read by Christy)


After your mother dies, you will learn to live
on the edge of life, to brace yourself
like she did, one hand on the dashboard,
the other gripping your purse while you drive
through the stop sign, shoulders tense,
eyes clamped shut, waiting for the collision
that doesn’t come. You will learn
to stay up all night knowing she’s gone,
watching the morning open
like an origami swan, the sky
a widening path, a question
you can’t answer. In prison, women
make tattoos from cigarette ash
and shampoo. It’s what they have.
Imagine the fish, gray scales
and black whiskers, growing slowly
up her back, its lips kissing her neck.
Imagine the letters of her daughter’s name
a black chain around her wrist.
What is the distance between this moment
and the last? The last visit and the next?
I want my mother back. I want
to hunt her down like the perfect gift,
the one you search for from store to store
until your feet ache, delirious with her scent.
This is the baggage of your life, a sign
of your faith, this staying awake
past exhaustion, this needle in your throat.

~ Dorianne Laux, via Superstition Review

*poem originally shared March 21, 2015

“Shackleton’s Decision” by Faith Shearin

Read by (an emotional) Christy. If the above doesn’t play for you, try clicking this link.

At a certain point he decided they could not afford
the dogs. It was someone’s job to take them one by one
behind a pile of ice and shoot them. I try to imagine
the arctic night which descended and would not lift,

a darkness that clung to their clothes. Some men objected
because the dogs were warmth and love, reminders
of their previous life where they slept in soft beds,
their bellies warm with supper. Dog tails were made

of joy, their bodies were wrapped in a fur of hope.
I had to put the book down when I read about the dogs
walking willingly into death, following orders,
one clutching an old toy between his teeth. They trusted

the men who led them into this white danger,
this barren cold. My God, they pulled the sleds
full of provisions and barked away the Sea Leopards.
Someone was told to kill the dogs because supplies

were running low and the dogs, gathered around
the fire, their tongues wet with kindness, knew
nothing of betrayal; they knew how to sit and come,
how to please, how to bow their heads, how to stay.

“Shackleton’s Decision” by Faith Shearin, from Moving the Piano. © Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2011.

Related reading: Ernest Shackleton’s biography and Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing.

“To the Student Who Asked Why He Earned a ‘C’ on an Essay about Love” by Clint Margrave

For my friends who enjoy listening to poems, especially for Jean and Michelle who hoped I would record some in my own voice. Assuming you don’t hate my voice, I will try to do more from time to time.

Because love has its own grammar,
its own sentences,
some that run-on too long,
others just fragments.
It uses a language
not always appropriate
or too informal,
and often lacks clarity.

Love is punctuated all wrong,
changes tenses abruptly,
relies heavily
on the first person,
can be redundant,
full of unnecessary repetition.

Every word is compounded.
Every phrase, transitional.

Love doesn’t always know the difference
between lie and lay,
its introductions sometimes
lack a well-developed thesis,
its claims go unfounded,
its ad-hominem attacks
call in question
its authority.

With a style that’s inconsistent,
a voice either too critical
or too passive,
love is a rough draft
in constant need of revision,
whose conclusion
rarely gives any sense
of closure,
or reveals the lingering
possibilities of a topic
that always expects high praise,
and more often than not
fails to be anything
but average.

“To the Student Who Asked Why He Earned a ‘C’ on an Essay about Love” by Clint Margrave from Salute the Wreckage. © NYQ Books, 2016.

For Jean and others who may have had problems playing the audio file up top. This is it in another format:

Student earned c on love essay poem (audio link)