Ode to the Unbroken World, Which Is Coming

Thomas Lux - 1946-2017

It must be coming, mustn’t it? Churches
and saloons are filled with decent humans.
A mother wants to feed her daughter,
fathers to buy their children things that break.
People laugh, all over the world, people laugh.
We were born to laugh, and we know how to be sad;
we dislike injustice and cancer,
and are not unaware of our terrible errors.
A man wants to love his wife.
His wife wants him to carry something.
We’re capable of empathy, and intense moments of joy.
Sure, some of us are venal, but not most.
There’s always a punchbowl, somewhere,
in which floats a…
Life’s a bullet, that fast, and the sweeter for it.
It’s the same everywhere: Slovenia, India,
Pakistan, Suriname—people like to pray,
or they don’t,
or they like to fill a blue plastic pool
in the back yard with a hose
and watch their children splash. 
Or sit in cafes, or at table with family.
And if a long train of cattle cars passes
along West Ridge
it’s only the cattle from East Ridge going to the abattoir.
The unbroken world is coming,
(it must be coming!), I heard a choir,
there were clouds, there was dust,
I heard it in the streets, I heard it
announced by loudhailers
mounted on trucks.

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.