Tom Lux Photographed by Deanna Sirlin

New Poems

By Thomas Lux

Thomas Lux’s career is one that spans decades with at least twelve books of poems spread across those years, as well as recently a collection of non-fiction essays called From the Southland (Marick Press, 2012).  Lux’s work is known for taking images from the “everyday,” the mundane and spinning them into the fantastic.  Lux’s poetic vision is uniquely his own.  Take for instance, his poem “Man Peddling Next to His Bicycle” from his book God Particles (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008):

He pedals

beside his bicycle, pedals

and pedals,

wondering where the mountains went,

the pastures, swing sets, the humans tending

to human things. Where did they

go—that which, those whom, he was meant to glide past,

or love, on this journey?

Similar to this bicycle “non-rider,” when one begins reading Lux’s poems, or most exactly put, when one enters the world of Lux’s poems, the reader has the experience of the “real” world melting away and wondering where it went in those moments of being held in the dream.

 

The poems in Lux’s forthcoming collection, Child Made of Sand (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012), which is set to be released in November of this year, are perhaps among Lux’s most autobiographical—the term “autobiographical” used here is not to mean memoir, confessional or some “straight up” telling of the poet’s past, instead, in true Thomas Lux fashion, these poems are informed by the poet’s own experiences over a lifetime—loves, both lost and gained, mother, father, home life.  Each poem is spoken by a carefully crafted persona with the ethos to have us quickly realize that the joy in these poems is the fact that they are worldly—in praise of the world—and utterly human.

 

--Travis Wayne Denton

To listen to Thomas Lux read his poems, please click on the audio player that appears above each text. 

A Frozen Ball of Rattlesnakes -
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A FROZEN BALL OF RATTLESNAKES

 

 

How’d they get in a ball?

What do you mean by a ball, how many in it,

and do you mean stone-frozen?

Or do you mean dormant, sluggish, half-hibernating?

Snakes can do that, right?

Rattlesnakes live in other countries too.

There are many species, right?

I’d seen copperheads and cottonmouths

in some mountains

and a few desultory streams I knew.

I live in a large Southern metropolis now

and my neighbors

found a rattler (albeit a small one) in their cellar.

Killed it with a shovel.

They have a child, and a dog.

In the frozen ball, do they wake up one by one?

Are those closest to the middle

warmer than the others?

They’re all cold-blooded.

Lincoln used the phrase, metaphorically, more than once.

It’s a good metaphor, easy to read, vivid. Metaphors

should be, and sometimes

should terrify: A man chops

off another man’s head, props

the corpse sitting up against a roadside pole

and places the man’s head, in his hands,

on his lap.

A Delivery of Dung -
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A DELIVERY OF DUNG

 

 

interrupted Wordsworth as he drafted “Intimations of Immortality.”

A timely wagonload

if one considers only

the title. An honest man knows

there is no such thing—immortality—hints or no hints.

I prefer Wordsworth the Younger,

his early/mid 30s, when the abovementioned

was written, when he, and Dorothy,

still had most of their teeth

and before he was spoiled (milk-sopped,

and walking like an Alderman

fed on too much turtle soup) by Dorothy (sister),

Mary (wife), and Sara (sister-in-law), and sometimes even another

Sarah (Coleridge’s wife, estranged!)

Wordsworth the Older

obtained a sinecure selling stamps,

wrote many bad poems,

lived a long, honorable life and,

truth is: he is immortal,

or as close as a corpse can get, would be

immortal for the first four stanzas of “Intimations”

alone. Those stanzas alone.

Anonymous—“Western Wind”—achieved the same with four lines!

No piece of art is perfect.

All it has to do is stay around

for two hundred, or five hundred,

or a few thousand

years. It (art) always changing; us,

not so much.

Bricks Sinking in Deep Water -
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BRICKS SINKING IN DEEP WATER

 

 

At what depth does their dull orange disappear?

I rowed out to where I know the water’s deep,

and in my rowboat: a cargo

of bricks, fifty balanced

across the stern, just so.

At the bottom of this reservoir

was a town. Two towns, in truth.

Its people were paid an honest price

to leave, but no question: they had to move.

I anchor my boat forty feet above

what was once a pasture.

I take a brick from port first

and hold it by its upper right corner

and dip its lower left corner into the water

before I let it slip my fingers.

The next one I take from starboard,

but drop from port, and so forth and on.

It’s the sinestra hand that does the work.

I never counted two seconds before one was gone

from touch, and sound, and sight. They sink until they stop

on now drowned and grassless land.

Why do I want to leave a small scattering

of man-made triangular stones

at the bottom of this no-bones

(the cemetery relocated)

body of water?  In darkness, who does not love

the faint, hard, orange glow

of  building bricks?

Dead Horse -
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DEAD HORSE

 

 

At the fence line, I was about to call him in when,

at two-thirds profile, head low

and away from me, he fell first

to his right front knee

and then the left, and he was down,

dead before he hit the…

My Father saw him drop, too,

and a neighbor, who walked over.

He was a good horse, old,

spavined, eating grass during the day

and his oats and hay

at night. He didn’t mind, or try to boss, the cows

with which he shared these acres.

My father said: Happens. Our neighbor,

named Malcolm, walked back to his place

and was soon grinding towards us

with his tractor’s new backhoe,

of which he was proud

but so far only used to dig two sump holes.

It was the knacker who’d haul away a cow.

A horse, a good horse, you buried

where he, or she, fell.  Malcolm

cut a trench beside the horse

and we pushed him in.

I’d already said good bye

before I tried to close his eyes.

Our neighbor returned the dirt

from where it came. In it: stones,

stones never, never seen before

by an human’s, nor even a worm’s, eye.

With the back of a shovel,

we tamped the dirt down.

One dumb cow

stood by. It was a Friday.

For supper we ate hot dogs, with beans

on buttered white bread, every Friday,

hot dogs and beans.

Fox -
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FOX

 

 

My father said: Fox took another chicken last night

and scared two others to death,

and your goddamn dog never lifted his head.

Kill it. He meant the fox,

not the dog. I followed his tracks

and the small splats

of blood and brown feathers

through the snow (I was glad

it snowed, I couldn’t track a moose

on dry ground) to his foxhole

near the top of a steep hill

about a half mile away; fresh, loose

dirt marked it easy among some small pines.

I knew not to go too near

and leave my scent,

so set up a good shot thirty yards away.

I built a small wall of snow, tripodded my rifle.

When he comes out of his den again

I’ll shoot the red fox dead.

Two hours later,

I hear my father call: Fox took another chicken!

I moved neither my blue finger

from the trigger nor the crosshairs

off his foxhole. Turns out, he had a back door.

In no foxhole I’d ever seen or heard of—in movies,

comics, TV shows, school, and later, in books,

did a foxhole have a back door; no, only one door,

upward, through the roof—a helmet usually—over which,

and through which, bullets and shrapnel tore.

Thomas Lux was born in Massachusetts in December 1946. He has been awarded grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Mellon foundation, and the NEA. In 1994, he was awarded the Kinglsey Tufts prize for his book Split Horizon. The most recent of his 11 full-length collections is God Particles (Houghton Mifflin, 2008). His forthcoming collection, Child Made of Sand, will appear from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the Fall of 2012. His collection of nonfiction essays, From the Southland is soon to be released from Marick Press. Currently, he is Bourne Professor of Poetry and director of the McEver Visiting Writers program at the Georgia Institute of Technology as well as on the MFA faculties of Sarah Lawrence College and Warren Wilson College.

Travis Wayne Denton lives in Atlanta where he is the Associate Director of Poetry @ TECH as well as McEver Chair in Poetry at Georgia Tech. He is also founding editor of the literary arts publication, Terminus Magazine. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, magazines and anthologies. His second collection of poems, When Pianos Fall from the Sky, will be published Fall 2012.