We bring spectacle to dying:
mourners on Bourbon Street
trumpet loss like heaven
translated through brass; South
Boston wails in humiliated
brogue, a smoke-scuffed
tavern a megaphone of sorrow
ringing through the bottle’s
neck. But what of those who’ve
glanced Death, only to be
returned back to this world and
the corners of our own undoing,
what then? How do I explain this
to my daughter, the dog tearing
open her face under the soft July
sun, her neck a torrent of red
weather. So much shrieking,
so much silence between
the shrieking, until she opened
her eyes and lived. And now,
nights are measured in cries
of memory, my wife and I
pulling her from those depths
and into our bed, soothing
her back to sleep. Hours later,
sitting on the edge of the mattress,
it’s all I can do to wait for dawn’s
small cordials of light; to count
the grosbeaks mumbling beneath
the feeder, forever hungry.
Listen to Christopher Locke read "Scars (three acts):
Scars (three acts)
After such knowledge, what forgiveness?
— T.S. Eliot, 'Gerontion'
My first at fifteen, the silver
blade fixed in its grinning,
a decree unwinding the forearm
into a strange roadmap until
a furious broth slurried the flesh,
overran everything like a prison
break, river of amazement
drooling at its luck.
The one my daughter wears, indefensible,
her face unhinged and broken in
the syrupy indifference of summer lull,
a picnic spread atop a green field where
we no longer feel safe: no one expecting
the dog to snap its sour maw into her cheek
and neck, the owner still holding its collar
so she could hug the animal properly and
show that all she had to give was love.
And what of the ones that remain
hidden, like desire in a good man;
the ones that bear weight the way
night bears darkness between the sleeping
rhododendrons, a trail of breadcrumbs
leading back to yourself, a prescription
with endless refills and all you need
to say is yes, you are thirsty?
Listen to Christopher Locke read "The Return:"
My daughter is singing again.
Six months after the dog opened
her face, separated bone from
flesh, and breathing was the only
music that mattered, she again
strings the air with bright tension,
throat carefully working notes
once abandoned like a car burning
against the highway, the driver
stunned and walking towards daylight,
towards anyone who could save him.
Daylight, the time when nightmares
retreat to the mind’s wet creases and
nothing can harm you, only melody
swelling room after room with its
sweet intentions, chambers filled
to bursting like the blood in our hearts.
Christopher Locke's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such magazines as Southwest Review; The Literary Review; Tuesday, an Art Project; Adbusters; The Southeast Review; 32 Poems; Alimentum; West Branch; The Sun; and Agenda (London). Chris has received grants in poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, New Hampshire Council on the Arts, and Fundacion Valparaiso (Spain). His first full-length collection of poems, End of American Magic, is currently available from Salmon Poetry. Chris lives in New Lebanon, New York, with his wife and two daughters and teaches writing and literature at the Darrow School.