EE Lampman

Spotlight: Longing, as dirge / Elegy / Epitaphs for a state you’ve never seen

Longing, as dirge

The wood in warp
and disrepair has had
its share of everything.
Never drinking

not even rye
and absinthe puddled
sickly on this old porch.
No, the sazerac’s

candy burn fails to impress
this sagging terrace—
it smolders on as coal
beneath the eves.

Although my foot
glances toward his thigh
and his hand
takes rest on my forearm,

our company is obsolete.
This portico—content
with former carnage dusted
and caked to its planks,

and the adirondack chairs,
free of lust, counsel us
with a deep recline
that slumbers toward

tomorrow. Still our flesh is deaf
and with each manhattan
our niceties crumble
dry to the red earth,

and our coy postures
seep toward
further mixing.
With bourbon’s glaze

his eyes undo me
blink by blink, his chin
becomes my thigh, and slivers

of chipped paint, my hair.
As the cocktails pour sticky
on our skin we think,
such wooden solitude is nothing like our tangle—


++++++++++for Stevie
++++++++++August 5, 1975-June 21, 2015

I’ve heard you spent the last of life between
patched-out lines in a big box store parking lot.
News travels like this, the wrong details

in color—the earth of you: warm and rusted
skin and early gray against the artificial sparkle
of those yellow tracks. My hum is not why

I take where and string it above this grief. Which
cart boy found your melting smile?
Which peopled crosswalks, impassable at noon,

laced a hedge around your limbs? How hot
was summer’s asphalt, sheer the highway whine?
How we hush your name tonight

throughout the bar knowing anyone of us
had been so close to your departure—knowing
I’ve been at the edge of torn dimensions with you.

Our drug-bittered tongues waved peels of laughter
across night’s skin, the trees our buoys in a pastel sea.
This time you tore off, ripped your body

free like a kite hauled away through the gorge,
the forest anchored below you, looking up
++++++++++++++++++++at your flying grin.

Epitaphs for a state you’ve never seen

In this one, a burro holds down
a scrubby pasture. Here, the Rio Grande
trickles dirty through a deep cut.
Pictured here, a cache of mountains swells
into the sky. A neighbor’s wall guards
the fruit trees that bend toward the fading,
turquoise-painted gate. And there, in the distance
an empty morada sifts each breeze.
From the camera angle you cannot see it,
but if you do visit, see penitente blood
on the cell walls, a backlash collage.
All summer these postcards have sat on the piano
unsung—white-backed simulacra spread
before me. How do I begin Dear Sister
and tell you I’ll never find it all,
of America I mean. How to say I’m sure
I’ll have to become something else entirely
before signing off Write soon or Love from NM.
How do I say I’ve lost my faith in the clouds?
Because I’ve spotted their act—
skittering across every sky like a happy,
sick dogma. Because the end won’t come
in a moment of condensation, but of dispersal—
where any body might as well just be
a pulp of whipped flesh, cushion
for cactus thorns and gravel
where we tried to save ourselves.

EE LampmanEE Lampman’s poems have been featured in The Missing Slate, Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, Poetry City, USA, and other publications. She is a poetry reader for The Cimarron Review, an editorial contributor to Hazel & Wren, and a Tupelo Press 30/30 Project alumna. She lives and writes in Oklahoma where she is an MFA candidate in poetry at Oklahoma State University.