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Much by Lauren Camp



On that side of the country, we stayed in a home where everyone was happiest. Everyone played with their hair, talked, interrupted, needed minutes of feet in the water. Needed the water dredged every eight days and swallowed the plot of five movies and wanted to wear their white shirts. In the big room, a bird twisted his beak. Another repeated only his mocking, his short permissions. I kept watching the sun leave its yellows, dazzling, unrelaxing, along the carpet. In the garden, the mowers tidied the lawn, settled the weeds. We were not part of the everyone but we went with them one late afternoon out to the trees in the largest vehicle with wheels that slipped under its windows. The tallest and strongest of the women was steering the giant window toward the sprawling sunset and talking and taking us with her. We drove to the lake, and she opened the door and took handfuls of sunset. She opened the hold and took out small chairs. She served us baked oiled chicken on plastic. Everyone sat in the chairs and noticed the lake continued draining. The double-spaced woman laughed as her face built its wrinkles. Around us, cicadas made their coolly blue sounds and small tides coughed and burrowed. From that pavement, we looked at the margins of darkness arriving. Then the horizon lay very still and we rolled home through the updating smoke to the east. Some old polka scuttled out from the speakers and we listened thoroughly to the silences between it because we are not used to such everything. And not, in truth, to so much of everyone, though there was not a single thing to complain of. Outside was pierced with shadows, and nothing looked like itself, all of it straining.

Photo credit Bob Godwin

Photo credit Bob Godwin

Lauren Camp is the author of five books, most recently Took House (Tupelo Press). Her poems have appeared in Witness, Poet Lore, Beloit Poetry Journal and The Los Angeles Review. Honors include the Dorset Prize and finalist citations for the Arab American Book Award, the Housatonic Book Award and the North American Book Award. Her poems have been translated into Mandarin, Turkish, Spanish, and Arabic.

First posted by Empty House Press