Two Poems by Stephen Lackaye


It wasn’t until later I’d see it as one thing
with the crows packed in the park lane trees
unsure of flight for smoke, and the cawing
meant, it seemed, to add noise to nights
of noise: that scream was something similar,
the evening I leaned in the warehouse door
for the ten minutes the state says I get
to wring my hands in open air. On the bench
on the far corner, a man had pulled red petals
from the city’s beautifying planter,
and held them out in offer to, I assumed,
a passing woman. Those days, I was desperate
for beauty in a way that often sent me late
into a café on Lombard to hear the back-and-forth
of men and women in love with one another,
if not lovers. So, for a moment it looked as if
whole flowers issued from his hands, though
somewhere there must have been a bike spoke
or umbrella spine, half a bottle, a blade, because
then I could see the blood, although the petals
on the sidewalk, at least some of them, were real,
if embellished by the sunset and the arriving
ambulance. How long did I watch while
the cases were filled, rushed along conveyors,
and more cases filled behind me? Only my lawful
ten minutes, which is enough when you’re sure
that most of our accord is mere convention,
the way the paramedics seem to move together:
nod, then lay him down, then lift the body
like any other. Later, the police come around,
take their photographs, leave the cleaners to work
the black part of the night under floodlights
to eradicate the blood. This is what I mean
about the crows, the noise on top of noise
that leaves to mystery the source of smoke:
after all the approved solutions, by the time
the second shift lets us to the fray, the first
signs of discord, all that we won’t reconcile,
have been lost to the standard precautions.


What the Monster Sends Us

One day it’s what you’d think: half a boy,
his black hair cut like Alexander, nothing
below the left shoulder. Marks on a hand
a ways off. Then, a morning where the fog
burns into unexpected heat, the night that
follows free of coupling. Once we were
at leisure to parse the year’s complexities,
at café tables over scalding coffee. We later
lost the shape of argument, seeking signs
of escalation in the rilings of the dogs,
the current that unpiles the dock, the note,
delivered or not, from a mother to a son.
We can agree on nothing, least how far
we are from the denouement. One day,
we say, and once and later and perhaps,
and tensions rise on these imprecisions.
Both of our sterling theaters have closed;
the museum remains an open debate, vague
as any omen. And what bothers us most
is not the dirt-clotted hunk of the boy,
but the fact that none of us knows him.


Stephen Lackaye’s collection of poems, Self-Portrait in Dystopian Landscape (Unicorn Press, 2016), was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award and an Eric Hoffer Prize. New poems have appeared recently in Southern Review, Southern Indiana Review, The Shore, Asheville Poetry Review, and Los Angeles Review. Stephen lives in Oregon, where he works as a bookseller.

Leave a Reply