from The Uses of the Body

Before you have kids,
you get a dog.

Then when you get a baby,
you wait for the dog to die.

When the dog dies,
it’s a relief.

When your babies aren’t babies,
you want a dog again.

The uses of the body,
you see where they end.

But we are only in the middle,
only mid-way.

The organs growing older in their plush pockets
ticking toward the wearing out.

We are here and soon won’t be
(despite the cozy bed stuffed dog pillows books clock).

The boy with his socks on and pajamas.
A series of accidental collisions.

Pressure in the chest. Everyone breathing
for now, in and out, all night.

These sad things, they have to be.
I go into the kitchen thinking to sweeten myself.

Boiled eggs won’t do a thing.
Oysters. Lysol. Peanut butter. Gin.

Big babyface, getting fed.
I am twenty. I am thirty. I am forty years old.

A friend said Listen,
you have to try to calm down.

Domestic

At night, down the hall into the bedroom we go.
In the morning we enter the kitchen.
Places, please. On like this,

without alarm. I am the talker and taker
he is the giver and the bedroom man.
We are out of order but not broken.

He says, let's make this one short.
She says, what do you mean?
We set out and got nearer.

Along the way some loved ones died.
Whole summers ruined that way.
Take me to the door, take me in your arms.

Mother's been dead a decade
but her voice comes back to me now and often.
Life accumulates, a series of commas,

first this, then that, then him, then here.
A clump of matter (paragraph)
and here we are: minutes, years.

Wait, I am trying to establish
something with these people.
Him, her, him. We make a little pantomime.

Family, I say, wake up. The sentences
one then another one, in a line. And then
we go on like that, for a long time.


About this poem:
"'Domestic' is part of a new manuscript, The Uses of the Body, which explores themes of gender, desire, marriage, monogamy, mortality (subjects I've written about previously) as well as pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood (subjects I've been reluctant to explore in poetry for fear of risking sentimentality). Although this material may seem familiar, I feel compelled to find fresh language, form, and syntax that can capture the immense strangeness of these experiences. This poem ('Domestic') comes at the end of a long sequence about marriage and domestic life."

Deborah Landau

from "Late Summer"

I’m on a bike and someone’s name is forming.

The road is potholes the road is dust.

Cruising the dirt, the meadow humming with bugs.

Dust rising, tires crushing rock, bats ejecting from under the barn

streaming the insected air the pulse life repeating life looping back

slowing down getting longer though it didn’t and isn’t.

A little letting go of fear.

A little spittle in death’s eye.

Don’t ask don’t think (I didn’t ask or think).

Didn’t think don’t think.

I remember giving in to it lying back and then

little sprout of willow

spray of the earth green of leaves the light coming down

as if through a ferny veil dirty primal randomly animate

and we are in it still.

from "Soft Targets"

A breath leaves the body, and wishes it could return maybe,
the news to the left and right rich with failure, terror, dither,
the bloated moon in constant charge of us like vapor—
 
and this did frame our constituency, even in our cozy homes
even in a painless state on the downriver, oh oblivion—
sipping champagne as another night brings forth its big dancing plan its damage.
 
I had a thought but it turned autumn, turned cold.
I had a body, unwearied, vital, despite the funeral in everything—
ample with bodies, covered in graves and gardens, potholes and water,
 
an ardent river we walked together, a wine and rising breeze.
Much trouble at hand, yet the lilies still.
That summer we sat with our backs to the street, letting time  pass—
 
lying all afternoon in the grass as if green and insect were the world.
I am, I am, and you are, you are, we wrote, until the paper seemed a tree again
and we walked beneath it greener and unsullied afresh.
 
Massive powers that be, what will be?
We smoke our pipes to forget you
& mildly now we bide our time
 
the violence and real cities under siege,
but also filled this morning
with coffee drinkers, office workers, taxi drivers, boys on bikes.
 
Golden we were in the moment of conception,
and alive, as if we always would be.