THERMOS 4: Gregory Lawless

Today we begin a week-long feature of Gregory Lawless’s poetry on the THERMOS blog, in honor of his new chapbook, Foreclosure, out now from Back Pages Books. Stop by each morning to read commentary from us and from Greg, along with some new poems. These first poems are from our fourth issue, which came out in 2010, around the time that Greg’s first full-length collection of poems, I Thought I Was New Here, was set to come out from BlazeVOX. We hope you enjoy the poems and the feature! — AS




I was swimming laps in the pool, snorting and huffing through the water.

It was cold. I was tired.

I wanted to get out and show my shame to the birds.

But, anyway. I kept going.

My wife threw her cigarette into the pool. You’re dying, she said.

The birds knew I was dying and stared down from the trees.

Hey, I said, thrusting my head out of the water.

I’m not dead yet.

I throbbed and kicked wildly, swinging my arms.

I’ve lived a good life, I thought, but really I hadn’t.

Bubbles poured out my nose like shreds of sky that didn’t belong in the water.

My life didn’t belong in the water, either, but my death was another story.

Waxwings, grosbeaks, little finches in the trees.

My wife just stood there, shaking her head.

Watch this, I said.

Look at me go, I said.




I fill it with water
and an hour later
I unscrew the cap

and pour out
dribbles of smoke
and sick wind.
I fill it

with curses and spit
and hand it
to my neighbor
and she says I’m not
falling for that

one again. Then
I plant innumerable

seams of corn
inside the canteen

and come harvest
I twist open
the top and inside
the villagers
are still hungry

and their scythes
are gleaming and sharp.



Exchange of Territory

I could not deem these Planetary forces
But suffered an exchange of Territory—
Or World—
Emily Dickinson

Early one spring, in what was left of the spring, I came across a gas station by the river.

Inside there was a mirror, sashed with ash and fine scratches, and a little cot, and the nubs of candles burnt away on a crate.

I made myself at home, if this is ever the case.

With winter, I thought, I would have to topple the shack, and drag the wood to a cave, and burn it there, in order to sustain.

But in the meantime, I would dream.

I would shiver.

And look out at the wick-colored world through the surviving glass and wonder.

But what was there to wonder?


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