In an essay on the writing life, Annie Dillard says, "The interior life is in constant vertical motion; consciousness runs up and down the scales every hour like a slide trombone. It dreams down below; it notices up above; and it notices itself, too and its own alertness." An NEA fellowship -- that yearned-for-but-never-quite-expected boon -- will allow me to experience this interior life, this search for words, with more focus than franticness. And the timing couldn't be better. This largesse will allow me to finish a third collection, tentatively titled The World's Lap, and to follow bread crumbs into the woods in pursuit of a fourth.
Yes, the zucchinis grow heavy and wicked,
and yes, a porcupine parses the orchard
one rummy apple at a time.
But the true inventory begins when two boys
in mummy bags carve up Cassiopeia,
first with index fingers, then with closed eyes
and a buried love of their mothers, expressed as sleep.
Next the bicycle hanging on the porch pedals
backwards, a poor man's time machine.
Which means it's time
for the zephyr and the uncle smoking
a hand-rolled cigarette
under the eaves to trade places.
Prepare then to say hello to wind tucked
into scuffed boots, to salute a laid-off longshoreman
pushing clouds across the lake.
Meanwhile, a croquet hoop and an ax
in the peonies create
a cautionary tale by moonlight,
whose heroine huddles in the front room
trying to free Chopin from torn sheet music.
Beneath her, in the basement, her older sister urinates
on a plastic wand that turns
her misgivings the shade of her boyfriend's car.
To the side of the house,
a salamander in a bucket holds the night
ransom. Up ahead, one peach tree, three grafts,
like agony buried in Jesus and the two thieves.
The Father who suffered him to be nailed
climbs over the fence. Wanders his overgrown
vineyard in an underfed body, to remember
lostness. Takes a swig of syrupy Coke
left out all day, coughs once, then wipes
his mouth on the neck of a sleeping mastiff,
who dreams apocalypse in greens and terrible blues.
Lance Larsen (PhD, University of Houston) is the author of two poetry collections: Erasable Walls and In All Their Animal Brilliance, the latter of which won the Tampa Review Prize. His poems have appeared in New York Review of Books, Paris Review, Grand Street, New England Review, Times Literary Supplement, Kenyon Review, New Republic, The Pushcart Book of Poetry: the Best Poems from the First 30 Years, and elsewhere. In 2005, he co-directed a semester-long study abroad program in London and taught creative nonfiction. A professor of English at BYU, he currently serves as associate chair. Former poetry editor at Gulf Coast, he has received grants and awards from The Cultural Arts Council of Houston, the Joseph Campbell Society, the Utah Arts Council, Sewanee, and Writers at Work. He is married to Jacqui Larsen, a painter and mixed-media artist.
Photo courtesy of the author