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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, May 1, 2017.
About this Poem 

“I was teaching a class in Provincetown when I got a phone call at 4 am. If we’re old enough, we know the news is never good at that time in the morning. After I hung up there was nothing but the thick quiet of the trees. What’s not in the poem is that I stepped out in my slip and picked up an old, three-legged chair that had been abandoned on the porch and threw it over the balcony where it shattered. That chair became the stars in the poem that I did look up to. It was the only thing I could do.”
—Dorianne Laux

Under Stars

When my mother died
I was as far away
as I could be, on an arm of land
floating in the Atlantic
where boys walk shirtless
down the avenue
holding hands, and gulls sleep
on the battered pilings,
their bright beaks hidden
beneath one white wing. 

Maricopa, Arizona. Mea Culpa.
I did not fly to see your body
and instead stepped out
on a balcony in my slip
to watch the stars turn
on their grinding wheel. 
Early August, the ocean,
a salt-tinged breeze.

Botanists use the word
serotinous to describe
late-blossoming, serotinal
for the season of late-summer.
I did not write your obituary
as my sister requested, could
not compose such final lines:
I closed the piano
to keep the music in.
Instead

I stood with you
on what now seems 
like the ancient deck
of a great ship, our nightgowns
flaring, the smell of dying lilacs
drifting up from someone’s
untended yard, and we
listened to the stars hiss
into the bent horizon, blossoms
the sea gathered tenderly, each
shattered and singular one
long dead, but even so, incandescent,
making a singed sound, singing
as they went. 
 

Copyright © 2017 by Dorianne Laux. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 1, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Dorianne Laux. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 1, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Dorianne Laux

Dorianne Laux

The author of several collections of poetry, Dorianne Laux was the recipient of the Oregon Book Award and a finalist for the National Books Critics Circle Award for her book Facts About the Moon

by this poet

poem

Soon she will be no more than a passing thought,
a pang, a timpani of wind in the chimes, bent spoons
hung from the eaves on a first night in a new house
on a street where no dog sings, no cat visits
a neighbor cat in the middle of the street, winding
and rubbing fur against fur, throwing

poem

 

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2
poem

My daughter, ten and brown—another summer
in Arizona with her father—steps
nonchalantly down the ramp as planes
unfurl their ghostly plumes of smoke.
I had forgotten how his legs, dark
and lean as hers, once strode toward me
across a stretch of hammered sand.
And her shoulders,