Oct/Nov 2010 Poetry

Two Poems

by Lauren Henley

Portrayal of a Man with Gun and Food


The moon fades in morning's firmament
like a milking bucket lowered down the well.
Gun under his flannel shirt,
breakfast table set for one, molasses
and salted butter, corn cakes,
gallon of water
for the hour drive and dawn's
five mile hike over Turtle Mountains.


He knows the failed liver of the third wife
the way a muskrat knows the wetlands,
cattails and mussels
and the golden jackal that hunts for it.
He had chosen sick women before,
had made a neural pathway
in the swamp,
much like the fingering
of guitar strings, faster, faster
until there is no need for thought.
He warms her soup in a cast iron pot,
butters bread, treks the dim hall with tea and water,
listening for the light-footed hunter.


Misting the amber barrel cactus and the lavender
flowers of the calico with hose water,
in his weekend wear, the cut-off tee that reads
Hog's Breath is Better Than No Breath At All,
brown stain of oil or sauce on the ragged collar,
looking up at his young daughter by the evergreens.
She eats the Pinyon nuts from shiny cones
that grow singly from the branchlets
and open widely,
freeing wingless seeds.


He eats corn chowder from a big red can
that reads, Hungry Man.
He eats the chunks of pinkish meat first,
gun in his holster.
In this kitchen was once the second wife
who made vegetables in golden gravies,
speckled blue-green lentils, crock pots of chili.
She was not ill. There was no hope that she would be.
He did not know his way to her.


During graveyard shift he breaks
at an all night diner. The waitress is young,
pressed to her job like a daisy drying
in the pages of a heavy book. In her tongue,
a jeweled barb that slurs her words.
He stays too long, tips her a twenty,
steps into the cold, readjusts his gun and starts the engine.
The road is a sick woman. He must kiss and kiss her and
follow the dark stretch until it ends.


We Girls

Wearing their silk slips and holding the lacey fringe
with sticky hands so we don't trip in heels or boots,
we follow our mothers from room to room
of whatever house our fathers have bought or built or
not yet stepped foot into
or drunkenly wandered past,
maybe shouting at the gate to open, open
let them in.
We follow our mothers into their gardens
where they would like to read
Lauren Bacall's biography or think of recipes
while sunning their calves, lathering greasy lotions
on their adult skin that we would like to have.
When they undress for a bath
we are there, asking why and how about
their tanned or pale flanks,
staring like teenage boys, gawking as they shave their legs,
at the razor's smiling glint, how something so sharp
can be run along the skin,
at the blood that seeps from nicks
and mixes with water,
flows pink and swirls down the drain
into the Earth's burning center.


Previous Piece Next Piece