Gradeschool's Large Windows

Thomas Lux - 1946-2017
weren't built to let the sunlight in.
They were large to let the germs out. 
When polio, which sounds like the first dactyl
of a jump rope song, was on the rage,
you did not swim in public waters.
The awful thing was an iron lung.
We lined up in our underwear to get the shot.
Some kids fainted, we all were stung.
My cousin Speed sat in a vat
of ice cubes until his scarlet fever waned,
but from then on his heart was not the same.
My friend's girlfriend was murdered in a hayfield
by two guys from Springfield.
Linda got a bad thing in her blood.
Everybody's grandmother died.
Three times, I believe, Bobby shot his mother.
Rat poison took a beloved local bowler.
A famous singer sent condolences.
In the large second floor corner room
of my 4th grade class the windows were open.
Snow, in fat, well-fed flakes
floats in where they and the chalk-motes meet.
And the white rat powder, too, sifts down
into a box of oatmeal
on the shelf below.

More by Thomas Lux

A Little Tooth

Your baby grows a tooth, then two,
and four, and five, then she wants some meat
directly from the bone.  It's all

over: she'll learn some words, she'll fall
in love with cretins, dolts, a sweet
talker on his way to jail.  And you,

your wife, get old, flyblown, and rue
nothing.  You did, you loved, your feet
are sore.  It's dusk.  Your daughter's tall.

Render, Render

   Boil it down: feet, skin, gristle,
   bones, vertebrae, heart muscle, boil
   it down, skim, and boil
   again, dreams, history, add them and boil
   again, boil and skim
   in closed cauldrons, boil your horse, his hooves,
   the runned-over dog you loved, the girl
   by the pencil sharpener
   who looked at you, looked away,
   boil that for hours, render it
   down, take more from the top as more settles to the bottom,
   the heavier, the denser, throw in ache
   and sperm, and a bead 
   of sweat that slid from your armpit to your waist
   as you sat stiff-backed before a test, turn up
   the fire, boil and skim, boil
   some more, add a fever
   and the virus that blinded an eye, now's the time 
   to add guilt and fear, throw
   logs on the fire, coal, gasoline, throw
   two goldfish in the pot (their swim bladders
   used for "clearing"), boil and boil, render
   it down and distill,
   concentrate
   that for which there is no
   other use at all, boil it down, down, 
   then stir it with rosewater, that 
   which is now one dense, fatty, scented red essence
   which you smear on your lips 
   and go forth
   to plant as many kisses upon the world
   as the world can bear! 

Dead Horse

At the fence line, I was about to call him in when,
at two-thirds profile, head down
and away from me, he fell first
to his left front knee
and then the right, and he was down,
dead before he hit the...
My father saw him drop, too,
and a neighbor, who walked over.
He was a good horse, old,
foundered, eating grass during the day
and his oats and hay 
at night. He didn't mind
or try to boss the cows
with which he shared these acres.
My father said: "Happens." Our neighbor
walked back to his place
and was soon grinding towards us
with his new backhoe,
of which he was proud
but so far only used to dig two sump holes.
It was the knacker 
we'd usually call to haul away a cow.
A horse, a good horse, you buried
where he, or she, fell. Our neighbor
cut a trench
beside the horse
and we pushed him in.
I'd already said goodbye
before I closed his eyes.
Our neighbor returned the dirt.
In it, there were stones,
stones never, never seen before
by a human's,
nor even a worm's, eye.
Malcolm, our neighbor's name,
returned the dirt from where it came
and, with the back of a shovel,
we tamped it down
as best we could. One dumb cow
stood by.
It was a Friday, 
I remember, for supper we ate hot dogs, with beans
on buttered white bread, every Friday,
hot dogs and beans.