James Laughlin

J
James Laughlin
My Ambition
For Wade Hall is to become a footnote
in a learned work of the

22nd centurynot just a
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Easter in Pittsburgh
Even on Easter Sunday
when the church was a

jungle of lilies and
ferns fat Uncle Paul

who loved his liquor
so would pound away

with both fists on the
stone pulpit shouting
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40
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Above the City
You know our office on the 18th
floor of the Salmon Tower looks
right out on the

Empire State and it just happened
we were there finishing up some
late invoices on

a new book that Saturday morning
when a bomber roared through the
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34
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Elusive Time
In love it may be dangerous
to reckon on time to count

on it time’s here and then
it’s goneI’m not thinking

of death or disaster but of
the slippage the unpredictable

disappearance of days on which
we were depending for happiness.
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Funerals
in our village are short and to the point.
While the mourners are finding their seats
Etta Andrews plays “Now the Day Is Over.”
No one is ashamed to wipe his or her eyes.
Then the Reverend stands up and reads
the Lord’s Prayer with the mourners
speaking it with him. Then there is a hymn,
usually “Rock of Ages” or one chosen by
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48
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In the God’s Dreams
Am I a character in the dreams
of the god Hermes the messenger?
Certainly many of my dreams
have nothing to do with the
common life around me. There
are never any automobiles or
airplanes in them. These
dreams belong to an age in
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37
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In the Museum at Teheran
a sentimental curator has placed
two fragments of bronze Grecian
heads together boy

and girl so that the faces black-
ened by the three thousand years of
desert sand & sun

seem to be whispering something
that the Gurgan lion & the wing-
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34
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The Invisible Person
Life kept rolling her over
like a piece of driftwood

in the surf of an angry sea
she was intelligent and beau-

tiful and well-off she made
friends easily yet she wasn’t

able to put the pieces to-
gether into any recognizable
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O Best of All Nights, Return and Return Again
How she let her long hair down over her shoulders, making a love cave around her face. Return and return again.
How when the lamplight was lowered she pressed against him, twining her fingers in his. Return and return again.
How their legs swam together like dolphins and their toes played like little tunnies. Return and return again.
How she sat beside him cross-legged, telling him stories of her childhood. Return and return again.
How she closed her eyes when his were open, how they breathed together, breathing each other. Return and return again.
How they fell into slumber, their bodies curled together like two spoons. Return and return again.
How they went together to Otherwhere, the fairest land they had ever seen. Return and return again.
O best of all nights, return and return again.
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Swapping Minds
(for Vanessa) Melissa and I were sitting
by the little lake in Green
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Technical Notes
Catullus is my master and I mix
a little acid and a bit of honey
in his bowl love

is my subject & the lack of love
which lack is what makes evil a
poet must strike

Catullus could rub words so hard
together their friction burned a
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