Friday 31 March 2023

Six Poems by Lewis LaCook


Coffee on kentucky avenue


This is the season her mirror thunders at her

inhibited only by what’s left of his pension

something in her mouth climbs out

tells her what she should look like, what she should do


The house throws back its head and laughs a belch of smoke

its windows blind him in drifts of shag carpet

his mother’s hands roll biscuits out of wood-panel clouds

they clear just in time to kick open the failure of his heart


Her children tell her what she should look like, what she should do

they fail her heart and disappear into her mirror

her mirror with its gasp-sharp teeth


Her room is bigger with the TV on

it talks to her with faces that never sag, never crack

it crawls into her mouth and sits at the kitchen table where her mother did





He knows about the roads around here

tracing fog on the windshield to sign his name

to enlist, behind him the creaking metal trailer

behind him the leaking 38th parallel, cat-eyed girl


at the gas station in a little red car smiles at him

behind nerves, citizen band radio sizzles on the windshield

beating back fragile diamonds, rich with hours, horns

asphalt smoking in deeper nights between cities


His children play with monsters

they find bones in the woods

charred by ghost fires that attack their hearts


His children play monsters

lapping blood from bodies in their dreams

he hauls their faces state to state



Flying ointment, limited liabilities


Do you want to cool off on the cemetery lawn?


You would rather wait. You wake up in the middle of the night feeling what everyone you know feels in that moment, the middle of that moment. You walk up and down the cold bottom of the lake.


A slow woodpecker tapping the thickness of a branch above you sounds to me like dead friends still coming to the door. A face traced with no care in dust.


Do you want to cool down on the cemetery lawn?


You wake up in the middle of the night and the sheets are infested with eyes. Eyes closing around you, grinding you to sleep. They sidewind away.


Do you know who would be up this late, to watch you wake up in the middle?


I’ll wait. You walk up the cool blue gone where you watch me wake. You warp the face of the deep until it smiles. The shape of minnows.



The Black River is empty


The Black River empties into a cemetery where your urn reminds ashes of wholeness. Its stiff waters green steel banks patrolled by police officers with furrowed brows and in its depth one can see the glister of shining minnows blowing like a halo around my dead friend’s chalked outline. In 1971 you set it on fire.


Father, I said, at one end of Broadway we lose our names, on the other our bodies are taken from us by black wind. This is all I can tell you about myself. The Black River is empty.


To hunt, herons compensate for refraction, swaying, unruly child, with your white bandana declaring how tough you wish your father had been. He would never look you in the face. What I hoped to find by crossing it on the trestle was some way to answer the officers without baring my teeth. Your father’s love toughened those stretches of tight quiet until every inch of your skin was snapping. In 1981 in the cemetery a black river lit green light on you as you walked home from school.


I think you know you can’t burn the river up. The Steel Mill is the cemetery’s night light. Police officers flow around your white bandana and chalk the borders of your body on the water. Perhaps a nice nap on the cemetery lawn. Perhaps my open mouth, spilling time.





Because it’s a steady pulse and what skips it

a type of tension-free melted ecstasy

meat weather inside the red felt restaurant

where they steal music from your stiff satchel

Because it’s a thready pulp hanging by the drips

of dear sister’s fracked eulogy for mother’s feeding tube

which both of us fear


Because it’s a heady pulpit in what grips us

what cups our bitter fun wasting closer to

loss which has never lied to us

I remember when you were there

before you were air and pictures curling

black with an orange heat that makes

cold homes for everyone


Because it’s a ready palm crossed with dull roads

over which weather considers sisters of felt

velveteen like liquid nutrition

It’s a dead park on the edge of a pink city

where we pale in our stalls as our pulse unwinds

on the lips of diamond-eyed toddlers

who laugh as we crack into ash



The county line


I dream a zany haunted house where my father drops me

full of beautiful rooms and unwanted cousins

This in a county where the lawns are the same green patches

that forget my home     Everyone is south here and wants

my attention which is only on the doors all of which

open to either rooms full of flannel ghosts or cackling

sunshine     In one downstairs room someone has set

a table full with fried chicken mashed potatoes boats

of gravy with their slick surfaces reflecting back

all this wood paneling     This in a country not my home

This in a house where my father wasn’t lost

but instead spreads out in a cacophony of others

jovial enough     I’m laughing at each new face each

with a joke and welcoming smile while I try

every door     When one opens to an untroubled sky

tears invade my eyes and I know at last that

I want my mother

Lewis LaCook - As a child, on interstate trips, Lewis LaCook thought the moon was following his family’s Econoline van. Upon reaching adulthood, he couldn’t tell whether the truth disappointed or relieved him, so he started writing things down. Some of these things looked like poems, and they may have appeared in journals like Lost And Found Times, Otoliths,Unlikely Stories, Whiskey Tit, Lotus-eater, Synchronized Chaos and Slope, among others. In 2012 BlazeVOX published Beyond the Bother of Sunlight, a book-length collaboration with Sheila E. Murphy; previously, Anabasis published his book-length poem Cling. His collection My Kinship with the Lotus-eaters was published in 2022 by BlazeVOX.( Lewis can often be found wandering the wilds of Western New York state with his wife Lindsay.

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