Two poems by Nicholas Laughlin
First published in The Warwick Review, June 2009
After Eight Days
After eight days
and eight different kinds of weather,
the usual bouts of hunger and thirst and patience and sleeping,
four little pills have undone me
(call them here and this and now and now)
and my heart is a wingless bird
stumbling in air,
and my lungs like two stones
have sunk to the tide,
and like a leaf dropped eight days dry
I rust, I fold.
Here is a photograph of you:
after eight days your face should not be strange.
Here is what your arms felt like last time:
my body should not be so strange.
A hand is a trap made of little bones.
A ring is a story half-told.
A shirt is a riddle about your heft, your smell.
Eight days is a riddle about the world.
The answer is strange.
• • •
Bodies of the Saints
Flowers: so their lips, their nacred
auricles, their burning finger-
tips: they show us first how flesh
is holy incandescence, our flesh
too (foreheads pressed to hips,
to thighs, to knees), the smudge of blue
& scent of roses, turpentine,
we carry after in our skin
(& other relics smuggled in:
their torn shirts, kerchiefs soiled),
each scrap of paper (clean as flesh)
illumined by their silence, how
they make of breathing wanting, make
of wanting grace: so we are martyrs
now to craving, we ignite
& all complacence burns away
till pure & blossoming we stay,
insatiable we moan & hymn
& pray: at last, sublime, we take
unsolace of their silvered limbs:
at their altars, naked, stand:
they are burning in our hands.