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Three poems by Nicholas Laughlin

First published in Poetry Review, Autumn 2002

linger, last

linger, “last”, but last me, least
till steals this long-last longing ’long
to stolen sleep; such “lost” depends
(lost at whose lips?); lapsed, & left
its lustre, what was “left” (was love?
was “love”?): an age to find, a rusting
little rest from hunger: half
a hunger only: “half” itself
is hunger after whole, it holds
to have this all (as “all”) unstalled:

halt is the whole of it, help of it, helving,
handy the hang of it, handing “past”
or “gone” or “one” to parsing, hung
at heel, & helter holding fast
till hails in a freak of the final fend of it
flight! from the fling to spring in falling,
free of fright in the frisk, the sting
of the worst-of-it’s wending, fraught with that friending
flourish, the taste of hale, that thirst,
that thrust unfrail, that furl, that “first”

• • •

Fell from the Sky

Fell from the sky, or I chose to fall,
blue-slate-shod and iron-shirted,
and all you knew was I came from a cloud,
a flying stone in a squall from the north.

The valley’s breath was moist with the smell
of the months I passed—the sharp of green
or purple weeds crushed in the hand.
Weather exhaled me and I was glad

to lance the troubled air, surprised
the earth would have me so easy and fast.
Winds deserted me, my flight
was broken, elbows into grass.

You found me rising from the thick,
naked shoulders draped in clay.
I too was astonished, wished
I had a word to prove my way,

a better token than my haughty
bruises, forehead flecked with blood.
Your tender faces made me weep.
I would have trusted you the keep

of all the silences I learned
aloft. I wanted you to hear
the urge that tumbled me above.
I wanted you to take my love.

• • •

I Will Build You a New Machine

I will build you a new machine,
a more concise device to twist
& preen your elementary self.
I spied your scheme, I stole your blue-
print veins & ganglia, I solved
the cube root of your appetite
(that coefficient of desire),
the query pending from “and” & “and”:

a wheel of small titanium hooks
(like question marks), pardelicate
with sinew springs, are measuring
the snag of your skin & sparkling
your nerves, as though a sort of spool
could catch trajectory & weave
a speed to thread you hot & keen
& clinging after rupted gleam:

the only architect, I loved
till I was raw & clean, a stone
to cut a piercer pulse, intent
to prang from you convulsed consent. 

• • •

Read more poems by Nicholas Laughlin