Michael Lauchlan

Give or Take

 “habit”–from Proto-Indo-European root meaning “to give or receive”[and often] “to hold”—                                                         Etymonline

I inhabit a body unruly and dreams
incontinent and a continent torn

by hands gripping gunstocks
hands taking what they can
even the dirt    especially dirt

In “habit” a hint of forgiveness

and also munitions      from habits
always new sparks kindle
flames begetting a whirl

Raised by women wearing wimples
their faces framed       hair

tucked back     eyes maternal
or younger and sparking         irresistible—

I inhabited Highland Park
nestled on Twelfth Street

I might say the fire was lit
in 1967 just
south of our little school

but that’s not quite right

Fire began when the Klan
took over the west side

of Detroit in the twenties
when Coughlin blamed the Jews       

when gangs wielded tire irons
and rifles and rumors
in ‘43               Fire began

way before that           In habit
always a lacerated hand


Not by Ice

Notice, you ask in your stunning way,
pointing at a shape the fire has cut

in a night that hangs just above its pit.
But how to translate a tongue of flame

to the combustible page and how,
in the midst of drama, to not pretend

that what’s burning is more than coals,
that smoke rises to praise or appease

gods we can’t remember or name,
that smoke suggests our souls, soon
departed, or the exhalation of a regime’s

last breath. How to see only a fugue–
heat and time and air offering up a dance
as lithe and vaulting quick as death.

Michael Lauchlan                           

Michael Lauchlan has contributed to many publications, including New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, Nimrod, Sugar House Review, Louisville Review, Poet Lore, Southern Poetry Review, and Poetry Ireland. His most recent collection is Trumbull Ave., from WSU Press (2015).