about the author

Daniel Lawless’s book, The Gun My Sister Killed Herself With and Other Poems, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry, February 2018. Recent poems appear or are forthcoming in The American Journal of Poetry, Asheville Review, Cortland Review, B O D Y, The Common, FIELD, frACtalia (Romanian), Fulcrum, The Louisville Review, Manhattan Review, Numero Cinq, Pif, Adirondack Review, The Meadow, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, and other journals. He is the founder and editor of Plume: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry.

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Two Poems 

Daniel Lawless


At the mid-point

Of my life I didn’t feel I was in a submarine

Silently crossing the International Date Line,

Nor get the sense of cinder-stitched allées stretching out

Between shadowy walls of phosphorescent foliage.

And I definitely didn’t see myself as a granite statue

Beating itself into an idea with a granite hammer.

Maybe I heard birdsong, but no bird.

Or maybe I was the bird and my birdsong

Was this: cries from some childhood playground,

A dull dental work ache like a provincial orchestra

Tuning up in my veins. Chair-scrapes

Followed by the roar of a gem-polishing machine.

The number 42, 42, 42, pronounced in Esperanto

As if a freezing prisoner in a courtyard

Was pleading for his life—

Kvardek du, kvardek du, kvardek du.

And, of course, the headwinds, howling in

From the North, starting to make a weathervane creak

Beneath a galloping horse that stands perfectly still.


It’s a bell curve, she’s saying,

This sweet doctor

With chipped scarlet fingernails

And big hair

Mouthing and pointing

As she swoops a made-up deaf-sign

For “hill”—some days she’ll be

                 Here, some here.

1983. In seven years

You’ll be dead, my sister

The sister who killed herself at sixteen.

Paroxetine, ECT, Paroxetine,

Notebook paper pictures

Of bare trees and fanged lizards

In bald Medicare therapists’ rooms

Our mute father

Will drive you to and from

In the pick-up lie ahead.

But for now there’s only

The three of us, M—

Staring at this phantom

Hill you’re somewhere on—

                 There or there

A hill that isn’t a hill at all but maybe a bell

In the other sense too—

Calling all the kids back

From recess, ringing in the schoolyard,

A bell you can’t answer,

Just can’t.

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