Monday, July 17, 2017

#238: Three Poems by Lori Lamothe

~These poems were selected by Clara Jane Hallar, assistant poetry editor

~This poem previously appeared in New Madrid (2016).


At the border between properties
a galvanized washtub collects falling
snow. Hours later, the white’s risen
so high it brims over emptiness.
I want to kneel down before it
and rinse my bare arms in its cold,
clean comfort. I want to let the idea of
an original, untouched world accumulate.
Because there are so many spaces inside me
waiting for renewal. The heart with its huge
barn doors thrown open in anticipation
of love’s galloping horses. The mind
and its attic of memories, or even the hands
held out for work, its solid, familiar tools.
Above me, the clouds open their trap doors
all at once and flakes sift down, blanketing
everything with a marvelous innocence
that will surely last long enough this time.


~This poem previously appeared in New Madrid (2016).

Glass Town

A shattered windshield woke us
out of no sleep, a night of trees
snapped in two. The woods
echoing with the sound of gunshots
or maybe just God popping some
supernatural version of bubble wrap. 
The world as we didn’t know it
encased in ice, everything shining,
blinding, melting before us.
Power lines glittered low 
or hissed warnings in tongues.
An entire neighborhood turned from wood
to crystal, its children imprisoned
in the storm’s snow globe gleam. 

You weren’t sure what to think,
eight being an age of wonder still.
Even the pine fallen across the roof
seemed dangerous in a way you couldn’t
resist. But there was fear, too.
Caught up in silence, you watched the sky
erase its work over and over,
saw how darkness spilt all the way to horizon,
blacker than anything you understood.

As for me, I wasn’t sure either.
The cold slithered over our coats,
sank its fangs into the furniture.
I studied the branches of your small bones
and conjured your skeleton scattered across death’s
frozen pond. I heard the jangled music
of the house falling in on itself
and covered my ears against imagining.
But that wasn’t all of it. Huddled
inside our circle of wavering light,
I felt the part of me I’d laid away
like an old nightgown at the bottom of a drawer
float out of hiding and reach across safety
to touch its sleeves to flame.

~This poem previously appeared in The Journal (2016).

The House

is not a shell, echoes ping-
ponging off every wall,
knocking lamps helter
skelter and shattering
orphaned wine glasses.
More like one of those
Russian dolls nobody
knows the name for
but is always using as
metaphor for the word
secrets the word depth
the idea of an onion
unfolding ugly petals  
in an impression of crying.
Open it, the house
and all its little painted faces.
Line them up across the years
in descending order.
Or, if you’d rather, stand
with your mind’s knife
before the cutting board
of the past and peel away
layers of wood of stone
until you reach love’s
coppery sheen or a life
blinking out. Remember
a man who sat transparent
on the edge of the bed
and spoke about threshing
sky for gold. See your
daughter streaming
in and out of selves
childhood blurring by
like the flip book she
made you in first grade.
At last recall the fingerprint
of the voice of the old
owner who told stories
about her six dogs rambling
in wild, unmown lawn
when you know for a fact
there were no dogs no ramblings no
unmown lawns only a black
cat and a carved
highchair for no infant
ornate in its silence.



“Glass Town” is based on a severe ice storm that hit Massachusetts in 2008. No one predicted its intensity, so waking up in the night to trees splintering was disorienting and spooky. All communication was down and we had no heat or water, so my daughter and I got into our car and set out to check on my mother, who lives in a nearby town. The damage the storm left was devastating but also beautiful—my daughter was enthralled by this world encased in ice. Almost nothing was open, downed power lines were live on the streets, and roads were nearly empty. I remember stopping at a Dippin’ Donuts and paying for iced coffee, which was all they had. In the poem, I try to capture the mix of emotions such extreme events bring to the surface.
“The House” is about the old Cape I currently live in. I don’t want to get into too much detail, but the reference to the ghost is true, as are all of the other events mentioned. At the time I was so unsettled by my ghostly visitor that I ended up researching the experience. A Harvard professor a friend met at a party assured her my “ghost” was a textbook example of sleep paralysis and I tend to think he’s right; that didn’t stop me, however, from joining a ghost hunting group for a few months. But there are multiple ghosts in the poem. All houses are filled with layers of the past that reach out to us, sometimes when we’re not expecting it.
“Forecast” is a snapshot of a moment when I was standing at my kitchen sink during a snow storm. It was one of those late winter storms that blanket drab landscape with beauty. At the time I was writing a lot of poems—nearly one every day—after not writing a lot of poems. The falling snow piling up in the washtub seemed to merge with the idea of words accumulating on the page (okay, the computer screen!). At that moment I felt a tremendous, almost radical, sense of hope and renewal.   


Lori Lamothe’s third book, Kirlian Effect, is due out in September with FutureCycle Press. She has also published four chapbooks, including Diary in Irregular Ink (ELJ Publications) and Ouija in Suburbia (dancing girl press). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Cider Press Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Literary Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Verse Daily and elsewhere. She lives in New England with her daughter and a Siberian husky born on Halloween.

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