The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Daniel Lawless

Old Woman Hit by a Truck

--after Traustromer


The old woman hit by a truck is just lying there,
On the sidewalk on Sixth Avenue.
Shattered glasses, blood-flecked checked skirt hiked up,
Head turned impossibly sideways — Transtromer
Got it right in “Vermeer” when he wrote, It’s not
A sheltered world. In the picture I saw a man’s pant leg zooms
Over her pocketbook, three children’s shadows hurry along
A wall. Although apparently these last seconds
Did not get permission to last for centuries. By the next day
Someone had Photoshopped a cell phone under her ear,
Captioned his masterpiece “Out of Service” —
Thrown up on the web, everything in it said,
I am not open, I am empty.



Daniel Lawless

Poem with Horse and RB


This is the poem where no one drowns in summer

Or propranolol, gyves or sluices or falls in love with Sister Wendy.

No one pisses off a dock, no one is pixilated

Or doll-like, no one gets high and sticks up a bodega;

No one wakes this morning believing his or her life is like

The reassembled pieces of a torn up letter, nothing clots or tethers.

This is the poem where no one fingers

A violet scar on the back of a cowboy’s neck, no one pleasures

Herself in the rank nest of her father’s deer stand.

Nothing is pale, nothing shattered, nothing crevé or pálida.

This is the poem that does not collage, appropriate, ventriloquize

Frank O’Hara or holla,  that does not try to squeeze

Into the skinny jeans of erasures or pantoums.

This is the poem from which the ornate nomenclature of ornithology,

Minerology, cytomorphology and all the other ologies is absent

Together with the word “absent”; in which nothing scuds.  There are no tufts 

And the tin cans of romance remain undented.

This is the poem in which there are no apparently endless permutations

Of light and darkness, where constellations do not wheel

And sex is not like anything except perhaps a brief shriek down a forever

Recycling water slide.

This is the poem that does not invoke abstruse principles

Of particle physics to delineate certain properties of fifties hairdo’s,

Does not pretend to tap the phone lines of the dead

Or ingenuously indulge in the fantasy of the soul.

This is you’ll be glad to know the poem bereft of sun-spunk.

That does not keen the passing of passenger trains

Or Mr. Furman my fifth grade teacher.

This is the poem without scent, without footsteps.

In other words this is the poem that closes the door

And locks itself in behind it.

No castanets, no pie, no drones or luminescent,

No hickies  or Sweet Jesus, no animals whatsoever.

Well, maybe one. Because how strange, how cynical and impoverished

Would a poem have to be to refuse admittance to a horse,

And while we’re at it while he’s still around, say,

Good old Robert Bly to see it with such clear eyes,

The white flake of snow that that has just fallen on its mane?



Daniel Lawless

Endless Tuesday


In the break room

No one wants to hear the brainless avid one trill it —

The ex, the new Trex, the weak latte,

The broken child or the break-in.

It’s like we’re all ten, bored, left alone, waiting for nothing

But our grandmother’s cuckoo clock

In the sweltering den to reveal the hour again —

The one someone wound too tight at the factory.

And here it comes.

The news of its news arriving on that dumb face

Before he opens his mouth.



Daniel Lawless

Young Squirrel


The day after the day Dad left I found you
In the alley behind the Quik-Stop
Way out by Aunt Rosarita’s house,
Your black little back feet still peddling
Your invisible bicycle, your sharp teeth still gnawing
An invisible peanut; you gave up the ghost
Of sour cranberry juice to my nostrils. The nurse in me
Was a book I never read so I thumbed
Your furred neck flecked with blood and flicked
The gnats from your eyeballs as best as I could.

O, fallen squirrel angel
From squirrel heaven, scion of the great
Acrobat family Sciurius —for a moment, after, I considered
A squirrel funeral like the one my sister staged
For our old tabby Tim-Tam —bunched Kleenex
In a hatbox, Our Fathers, a solemn march with yellow daisies
To the foot of a budding Coffeetree. But you were just a squirrel,
And I was ten, helpless, far from home and furious inside
And the dumpster was so close.




DANIEL LAWLESS has published or has poems forthcoming in Cortland Review, Louisville Review, Ploughshares, FIELD, Prairie Schooner, B O D Y, Fulcrum, Asheville Review, Pif, etc. He is the founder and editor of Plume: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry.



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