Laux: cute, but did she come to lose?

East: Second Round Play: Conoley v. Laux

Conoley’s “Beckon,” which bested Creeley, has remarkable lines: “And truth is music’s mute half,/a sentence broken into,/the half tone of a husband/waiting alone in a car,” but the poem finally ducks and hides too much in the shadows of private meaning—an interesting face marred by unseeing eyes.

Laux’s “The Lovers” looks you in the eye and tells you exactly what’s happening, the yang to Conoley’s yin: The narrator is fucking and ” [what] she can’t bear [is] that she can’t see his face,” and then she slaps him on the chest to get his attention, but regrets it that he looks at her in her vulnerable state of screaming orgasm—Laux’s poem, unlike Conoley’s, is simple to paraphrase:—one is too easy, the other, impossible, to summarize. One is a Country-western Lyric with its heart on its sleeve, the other an obscure, suggestive, Indie Rock Lyric.

Conoley, 55-52.  Gillian Conoley is in the Sweet Sixteen.


  1. Poem support said,

    April 12, 2011 at 2:05 pm


    Dead cold spots in the air,
    others bright and richly colored as opera,

    my old dress is worn out,
    torn up, dumped,

    another thing the mad made.
    Saddles laid out to dry,

    vowels left up in the air as if something is better
    left unsaid as if I could have.

    And truth is music’s mute half,
    a sentence broken into,

    the half tone of a husband
    waiting alone in a car,

    so that only the sun warrants a red mane.
    A figure passes quickly

    in the ever-unquiet breath
    of you, you, you and sometimes me.

    The future nude, an absolute night
    troubled by how we will live up

    to the day’s sequence of images in full sail,
    as wind folds other things,

    and ink branches and conceives.
    Last night was floral,

    a satin comforter fell
    into violence, old

    strangely beautiful voices
    in the thin thread of my dreams

    in the thin thread of my speech.
    I was embarrassed because I wanted lines in the face

    and the laughter that spills over
    to bring me luck’s child.

    I had a dream like seconal, sleepy rule of birth,
    odor of seduction. I had only prayer, prayer

    and science. On a street young girls gathered,
    loud with nothing to say, as in an attempt to explain a local fire.

    Gillian Conoley

  2. Poem support said,

    April 12, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    The Lovers

    She is about to come. This time,
    they are sitting up, joined below the belly,
    feet cupped like sleek hands praying
    at the base of each other’s spines.
    And when something lifts within her
    toward a light she’s sure, once again,
    she can’t bear, she opens her eyes
    and sees his face is turned away,
    one arm behind him, hand splayed
    palm down on the mattress, to brace himself
    so he can lever his hips, touch
    with the bright tip the innermost spot.
    And she finds she can’t bear it—
    not his beautiful neck, stretched and corded,
    not his hair fallen to one side like beach grass,
    not the curved wing of his ear, washed thin
    with daylight, deep pink of the inner body—
    what she can’t bear is that she can’t see his face,
    not that she thinks this exactly—she is rocking
    and breathing—it’s more her body’s thought,
    opening, as it is, into its own sheer truth.
    So that when her hand lifts of its own volition
    and slaps him, twice on the chest,
    on that pad of muscled flesh just above the nipple,
    slaps him twice, fast, like a nursing child
    trying to get a mother’s attention,
    she’s startled by the sound,
    though when he turns his face to hers—
    which is what her body wants, his eyes
    pulled open, as if she had bitten—
    she does reach out and bite him, on the shoulder,
    not hard, but with the power infants have
    over those who have borne them, tied as they are
    to the body, and so, tied to the pleasure,
    the exquisite pain of this world.
    And when she lifts her face he sees
    where she’s gone, knows she can’t speak,
    is traveling toward something essential,
    toward the core of her need, so he simply
    watches, steadily, with an animal calm
    as she arches and screams, watches the face that,
    if she could see it, she would never let him see.

    Dorianne Laux

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