2 Dorianne Laux Poems

Dorianne Laux

SECOND HAND COAT

We lay in his king-sized bed, me and the man I’d met hours before at the beach, the aria of my orgasm still echo­ing in the still sum­mer air, dis­turb­ing the dust motes into pale pais­ley swirls that hung in bars of sun­light over the white sheets. Those were the days I believed I could love any­one, giv­ing my body away like bread, my lips swollen from kiss­ing. He told me his wife had recent­ly died in this bed, sui­cide. I didn’t look at him or touch his hand. I stared up at the nub­bled ceil­ing, its white moon­scape, and con­tin­ued to breathe. There were box­es half-packed, the walls whiter in squares where he’d tak­en pic­tures down, rice paper lamp­shades stacked in a cor­ner near a small pot­ted palm, a sil­ver mis­ter. We smoked a whole pack of cig­a­rettes down to their white fil­ters, crush­ing them into a saucer propped on a pil­low between us. He said he’d wok­en soaked in her blood. He was from some­where back east. His name was Sellers McKee. We were togeth­er, if you could call it “togeth­er”, for a few weeks. One night we stayed up late, ate piz­za and watched Jay Leno. I smeared sauce on the bed­spread and when I got up to clean it he said Don’t both­er, I’ll use it for pack­ing. Later, we had a fight about whether the word dec­o­ra­tive was pro­nounced dec-ra-tive or décor-a-tive. Every day some­thing would dis­ap­pear, the clock from the kitchen, every white mug in the cup­board, a plas­ter cast of a someone’s left hand. Once he came over to meet my moth­er because she was from Maine and he’d grown up some­where near there. He brought her the pot­ted palm as a gift. They talked and flirt­ed for hours while I did some­thing else. Toward the end he had a par­ty, invit­ed a bunch of his friends. He took my hand and pulled me into the bed­room. Someone in the liv­ing room turned the music down right in the mid­dle of my noto­ri­ous song. He kept say­ing Go on, It’s okay and I sud­den­ly got it that he want­ed them to hear it, that he’d set me up. I could nev­er decide if that both­ered me or not. The last day he told me to open the clos­et. I looked in at her dress­es, arrayed in col­or-cod­ed rows, white silk blous­es and black pen­cil skirts, san­dals, then heels, then win­ter boots. He said Take any­thing you want. I set­tled on a coat, tan with tor­toise-shell but­tons, a creamy cash­mere lin­ing you could unzip and dis­card in spring. I was over­whelmed by his gen­eros­i­ty. I kept say­ing Thank you, thank you as he led me to the door. Then it was over, and for the next few weeks I went out with a garbage man who’d pick me up in a big white truck. His name was Sam, which I prob­a­bly only remem­ber because I sang it like a child’s song when­ev­er he called. It’s Sam, I’d sing, Sam, Sam the garbage man, if he can’t do it no one can, and he’d say, dead­pan, noth­ing in his voice at all, Yeah, yeah, dar­lin, it’s me.

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FIRST LIGHT

Lightly, she had to touch him light­ly,

because he almost wasn’t there, that first boy

who came to her beneath the drunk­en stars,

clothes unwound like ban­dages reveal­ing

the flesh that glowed with­in like bread, salty

clav­i­cle, arched bone filled with mar­row

she sucked as her womb shook, the bel­lows

of her breasts bil­low­ing, soft pil­lows

he now pressed his tilt­ed head against,

his breath unspool­ing into the hol­low

of her throat, lift­ing the finest hairs

at her neck’s nape. She stroked him then,

like a horse, his long back, his dark­ling spine,

and watched the grass­es on the hills sway

and rip­ple, lis­tened to the loud crick­ets

chip away the night. She had stepped

into the old­est church, the win­dows

bro­ken, her bare feet on stones hauled up

from the val­ley below thou­sands of years ago,

the sun and stars still inside them, and she had

stood there, a non-believ­er, and wept.

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A final­ist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Dorianne Laux’s fourth book of poems, Facts about the Moon (W.W. Norton), is the recip­i­ent of the Oregon Book Award and was short-list­ed for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, and is a win­ner of the Pushcart Prize.  Laux is the author of Awake (1990) What We Carry (1994) Smoke (2000) and Superman: The Chapbook (2008), and the chap­book, Dark Charms by Red Dragonfly Press. She teach­es at North Carolina State University.