Poetry / Lauren Camp
:: Whether or Not or Neither ::
I call my father every three days on the white phone so he can tell me about noon and its signal. I hold each meander up to my head. He has lived past being a particular being and I have learned I can love longer the last of his vanishing stories. His steady anxiety splits my ghosts, and on Tuesday and Friday and any day I call him with such kindness as I didn’t have years ago. He no longer settles a sentence. Whatever it’s worth, now with him I’m all nectar. I’ve learned to be sleepless where coyotes find midnight desirable. I expect bird forms and forests to help me recover from the dimming of his echoes, that unmanageable folding. When I was last by his sleeve, the woman next to me sobbed without hesitation every three minutes and the orderly in the chair beside her bent in to her long lonely face whispering Sandy, don’t cry. You’ll mess up your makeup. Each time, Sandy was tugged to a quiet and sat perfectly focused on mist only she could see. Outside the window were here and there and the gusts of a future. Then Sandy’s plain lashes fluttered and I saw her eyes find the surface and the pattern of tragedy, which is in me, in you, the drain of so much reason, and the relief again of more tears.
:: Guide to Getting Home ::
Let home now be scurrying cotton feather. I’ve let go where I grew to be in this flame-perfumed desert. Needed more than the slow small sun swung up to boxes of windows. After the school bus circled past maples, I would skip with domesticated hunger to our cul-de-sac, holding lined equations. If Jane. If Tom. Each fact. You can imagine our little existence: Atari and sitcoms. In her corner, my mother pinned hems. I made small glad movements: rendered my dinner fork and voice and something forgotten. What I mean is I feasted. My family went on saying things to each other then released to the blue sofa loopy on ’70s humor. I remember my Saturday dresses, but not the buttons. Later remember my mother’s lung with its stain. Rain, sleet, everything we lived between. Nothing was certain but grapefruit on weekdays and pigeons. Now that I’m in the desert’s spontaneous glitter, my home is steady and thick. A few rabbit tracks mark the whisks of last year’s grasses. Storm clouds, long spiders beside rhizome, petiole, cataphyll. The horizon changes and somehow I’m back to another turn up the stairs of that normal brown Tudor on a street with no precise name. The street we repeated as we reentered each day with the least and I wasn’t afraid. Each time we vacationed, my mother plunked her feet on the dashboard while we took the distance to an average hotel in Boston’s low edges, a pool, a closed door, nothing worse. This was also a shape of divinity. Then we drove back.
From the writer
:: Account ::
For several years now, I’ve been writing about family. When my father began showing signs of dementia at his 80th birthday party, suddenly there was a lot to do to ensure the resources were in place to take care of him. It was shocking to be making decisions for someone else, someone who had always been very vital, not to mention controlling. Much stress and questioning surrounded each action. My siblings had their own reactions, and I wrote through some of those. Through poetry, I have documented the years since then, his worries and our worries, some details of his new home (in memory care) … all the way through writing the obituary and planning a funeral. It was helpful to have a way to craft the complicated grief and sadness. This didn’t make it go away, but by giving it a form and some creative approaches, I could focus to specific perspectives and allow what was happening. “Guide to Getting Home” turns back through childhood memories, with a brief look forward, beyond what we knew then to what would come. It’s a quirky sort of pleasure to play with time in a poem.
Lauren Camp is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Took House (Tupelo Press, 2020). Her poems have appeared in Bennington Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Witness, Ecotone, Poet Lore, and other journals. Winner of the Dorset Prize, Lauren has also received fellowships from The Black Earth Institute and The Taft-Nicholson Center, and finalist citations for the Arab American Book Award, the Housatonic Book Award, and the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award. Her work has been translated into Mandarin, Turkish, Spanish, and Arabic. www.laurencamp.com