Michael Lauchlan – Poetry Collection



The ballad lays down such facts

as we need, each stress struck

on downbeat like the tired steps

of a brick mason who never wrote

a single line, but emitted this tale

with a slow whistling breath, his

whiskeyed sweat gleaming as he glared

at a skinny singer, until the kid

just had to get it down, set

to an old chord progression but sung

slower to match the stride of a guy

leaving a pub after a slow pint,

after countless courses of brick.

It matters little, a century gone,

if her eyes were black, if she split

in Dublin or Detroit. But with this

gait he walked his dark street

and only soft human sounds

remain as women shine or sway

on a dance floor and men recall

things they haven’t done but might.



Outside the bar she hands a bill

to an old man. He’s drunk

and says little, but she’s gone

quick anyway and it’s done

almost without thought, an act

leaking out like olive oil

from a cask, like sweat

from the bald trumpet player,

as he opens his spit valve

and shakes the horn, smiling

at a kid sitting-in on bass,

as if to say, it’s OK–

you’re not as bad as you

think. No one is. Outside

the old man’s drowsing again,

having given up the line of chat

he was making before a sweet

girl squeezed a ten into his hand

–her light, smooth touch–

one corner of the dry bill still

sticking up between fingers, a line

from the horn sliding past the noise

in the bar to him on the step and

to anyone just now walking past.




Blown into a downtown street, as kids

and families troupe toward a first pitch,

one note proffers this is all I’ve got,


this breathy tone, and what’s song but

breath counted and broken over a beat.

Then, when it seems a man might expire


like a meter, a borrowed book, a blown tire,

or worse, become a sappy bit of schtick,

he slides into Harold Arlen’s bleak rainbow.


Music breathes and bleeds, but doesn’t eat.

It needs no hook for its hat and no

pillow. It’s blown from a sax into a game-


bound throng in tight jeans, into ears

of women and men who don’t want

its soft secret: longing will outlast us,


spoken, or not, and love won’t sate it,

but will lurk anyway offered as a riff

on a tune we’ve never really known.

michael_lauchlan2Michael Lauchlan’s poems have appeared in many publications including New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, English Journal, The Cortland Review and Innisfree. Lauchlan’s collection, Trumbull Ave., is forthcoming from WSU Press.





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