Turning Point

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Sample Poems by Christopher Locke

To My Daughter Grace, Nine Years Old

The sky had already dimmed, the field
a stigmata of grey we ran through until
I looked higher to notice an aquarium
of many-toothed stars schooled above us
where just before clouds held the dusk's
reflection like oiled wool. And even a bat
appeared without warning, dropping from
above as if on string, spelling the air in dark,
cursive swoops. We threw twigs up toward
its wanting and you laughed when it
dive bombed us, hands above your head
as if in supplication. I knew then that
I would lose you, someday gone
to the world of men and promises,
dreams opening like doorways
to light, and could picture myself
already trailing from you, unable
to take your hand: a phantom limb
reaching from one body to another
between the unreachable air.


Scars (three acts)
After such knowledge, what forgiveness?
-T.S. Eliot, 'Gerontion'

i.

My first at fifteen, the silver
blade fixed in its grinning,
a decree unwinding the forearm
into a strange roadmap until
a furious broth slurried the flesh,
overran everything like a prison
break, river of amazement
drooling at its luck.

ii.

The one my daughter wears, indefensible,
her face unhinged and broken in
the syrupy indifference of summer lull,
a picnic spread atop a green field where
we no longer feel safe: no one expecting
the dog to snap its sour maw into her cheek
and neck, the owner still holding its collar
so she could hug the animal properly and
show that all she had to give was love.

iii.

And what of the ones that remain
hidden, like desire in a good man;
the ones that bear weight the way
night bears darkness between the sleeping
rhododendrons, a trail of breadcrumbs
leading back to yourself, a prescription
with endless refills and all you need
to say is yes, you are thirsty?

Against Despair (a pastoral)

When we dragged ourselves out of doors
for light, for a respite from our telling
cruelties, we went to a great field charred
pink with azalea and small fountains

of jimson weed flung wild before us,
a walking path shaved low and belting
the land as one. Then a spurt of yellow as
two bobolinks carved the sky with animal
heat and voices like a translation of water.
Later, walking home, both of us dulled by
private sorrows, last chances ruined. And
we, we always tried to make sense of it all,
even as the day turned cold and late, even as
dusk called the first stars up out of their graves.


Biking Old Route 5

Knees turning in a pageantry
of fire, your spoked universe
churning day into black ribbon
behind you, the heart puffing
its smoke signals hotly between
your teeth, grimace like coming
into empty sheets again, loneliness
heavy as the burden of sunlight
implicating your shoulders, skin
an argument of raw needles
pricking your arms, your
legs, your face shining like
a gruesome lampshade left
on in a museum of bad ideas,
until you shudder and stop by
the corn field, gasping like
somebody's father is pressing
his hand against your mouth,
telling you it's okay, close
your eyes, let me carry your
body into the field, the rich soil,
the hum of everything alive and not.