Wednesday Oct 18

Dorianne Laux’s fourth book of poems, Facts about the Moon (W.W. Norton), is the recipient of the Oregon Book Award. Laux is also author of Awake, What We Carry, and Smoke from BOA Editions, as well as Superman: The Chapbook and Dark Charms, both from Red Dragonfly Press. Recent poems appear in Cimarron Review, Cerise Press, Margie, The Seattle Review, Tin House and The Valparaiso Review.  Her fifth collection of poetry, The Book of Men, will be published by W.W. Norton in February, 2011.  Laux teaches in the MFA Program at North Carolina State University.
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Jane Street
 
On the corner of Jane Street
a young man combs snow
through his hair, scrapes
each slush-crusted sole
along the curb while the ghost
of Walt Whitman sits
in a coffee shop, eyes fixed
on the back of the boy’s neck:
shirt collar powdered with snow,
ash-colored coat.   
 
Walt wants to write
about the boy: narrow shoulders
hunched against the cold,
the damp wicking up
the cuffs of his pants.
 
Out on the Hudson a barge
blots out New Jersey, massive
hinge in the river, gray wings
of water plumed on either side. 
 
                        He can go
anywhere he wants now. 
He’s drifted over the city
in his charred feathers,
his beard of smoke
brushing the tip
of the Empire State. 
 
                        But this
is the place of all the places
he chooses: a jail
of a cafe, its steamed windows,
its rats waiting for night
beneath the floorboards. 
 
                        Here,
where this young man stands,
scarf a blue knot at his throat,
who stares as if he could see him, 
the storefront glass a mirror
he looks beyond, the same way
his father once did, and his father
before him. 
 
Tired of the multitudes
the poet has narrowed it down
to this one lonely citizen
he waits to glimpse each day
at noon, cup of bitter tea,
tin spoon, his pen, a blank
notebook fluttering open
on the tiled table, quiet objects
his air-colored fingers
are unable to hold. 
 
 
Paper Dolls
 
Behind rain-streaked windows
paper dolls in a row on the floor, 
their flat shoes and flapped hats, 
lain out as if they had lives, 
choices.  Flimsy and bare
in their pitiable white underwear.