Poems by Thomas Lux (1946-2017)
ODE TO THE UNBROKEN WORLD, WHICH IS COMING
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 venal, but most not.
There’s always a punch bowl 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 backyard with a hose
and watch their children splash.
Or sit in cafés, or at a 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, dust,
I heard it in the streets, I heard it
announced by loudhailers
mounted on trucks.
The Milkman and His Son
For a year he’d collect
the milk bottles—those cracked,
chipped, or with the label’s blue
scene of a farm
fading. In winter
they’d load the boxes on a sled
and drag them to the dump
which was lovely then: a white sheet
drawn up, like a joke, over
the face of a sleeper.
As they lob the bottles in
the son begs a trick
and the milkman obliges: tossing
one bottle in a high arc
he shatters it in mid-air
with another. One thousand
astonished splints of glass
falling . . . Again
and again, and damned
if that milkman,
that easy slinger
on the dump’s edge (as the drifted
junk tips its hats
of snow) damned if he didn’t
hit almost half! Not bad.
Along with gentleness,
and the sane bewilderment
of understanding nothing cruel,
it was a thing he did best.
Author of fourteen books of poems, Thomas Lux was the Bourne Professor of Poetry and the director of the McEver Visiting Writer's Program at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He was also a beloved long-time professor and director of the writing program at Sarah Lawrence College. His honors include the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, a Guggenheim fellowship, three NEA fellowships, and the Robert Creeley Award.
“Try Lux on for size. He’ll pinch in places, soothe in others, but I predict one thing: you may never fit the same way in your own skin again.”
–Rita Dove, former US Poet Laureate