This week, THERMOS has run a feature of Laura Walker’s poetry, assembled by Cassie Donish. We conclude today with a series of new poems. Thanks for taking the opportunity to read new work by one of our favorite poets.
from story as a cloud above the bed, haze of flies, a little suture
if a story like a river, loose and fretful, twine. if a story with debris and froth, pulling from the banks as it comes, never the same twice, step in and be renewed. if glass-bottomed boats and red-dotted fishes. if another line just under the surface, if you can’t see without drowning, if sometimes in storm, sometimes becalmed. if each person carries her own boat, dam, leaf. cutting its own way through or swept along and over the cliff, story as waterfall and prismed light, story as gravity.
to make an honest betrayal, shoving ahead in the dark. her brother’s blond head rising above waves; a man on the bed telling stories. little girls in exquisite ice, beaded swans, a soldier inside a hollow tree. three sets of enormous eyes. and when the story bolts out of the tree: an old woman as mound and x’s on doors. incongruous. the man with one glimpse wishing her forever. he smelled like salvage. damp books that hadn’t been opened in years. dust along the corners.
a story as skin. boundary, temperature, delineation. what she was told and what she saw making fuzzy scratches in the dark. coming to terms, carefully, over tea. if he saw her he didn’t see her; if he didn’t see her is perspective a concept worth inhabiting. the era of loose meditation gowns and full frontal nudity, a thin acrid smell underneath the baking bread; they grew it themselves in the basement. lights buzzing all night long. swimming as context, the house and its inhabitants: to get her head above water.
the story spills and is not absorbed, excess running off hard ground, rising, collecting old bottles and fenceposts, swirling and sucking, the girl and the boy climbing a little faster now, up onto the hill or the barn or someone’s front stairs, keeping their feet dry.
the story of the woods before the woods; the story of the woods.
her story as the moment she opens her eyes, slowly, in case someone has wired them shut. the pull and feel of gravity, the north pole, snow and magnet. each track identifiable if you know how to look: rabbit, solider, a dragged wing. they ran a new fence just along the gully, her brothers, inhabited trees.
to go with the soldiers. burn your clothes and follow them, stepping across dirt, the terrible winding roads. they have no concept of what they will see; their guns are unwaxed and staring. by the time they return they will be solitary, wandering the high grass, looking for wild honey and a hollow tree. story as a cradled gash, warm bubbling of space, a hole to carry in your pocket.
the story continues on its own, intent, limping toward water or a nearby road. she can see it in the distance, in one version calls out, in another doesn’t, standing barefoot on the porch. we eat the same fruit, follow the same thoughts of shade, but we are different creatures and the difference cannot be sustained or distracted. the story tries to move forward, falls, circles back and tries again. she stands on floorboards. she doesn’t know the way either, couldn’t help if she wanted to, but slowly descends and heads toward it. to keep a story company; to give it shade.