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Best Famous Thomas Lux Poems

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by Thomas Lux |

Henry Clays Mouth

 Senator, statesman, speaker of the House,
exceptional dancer, slim,
graceful, ugly. Proclaimed, before most, slavery
an evil, broker
of elections (burned Jackson
for Adams), took a pistol ball in the thigh
in a duel, delayed, by forty years,
with his compromises, the Civil War,
gambler ("I have always
paid peculiar homage to the fickle goddess"),
boozehound, ladies' man -- which leads us
to his mouth, which was huge,
a long slash across his face,
with which he ate and prodigiously drank,
with which he modulated his melodic voice,
with which he liked to kiss and kiss and kiss.
He said: "Kissing is like the presidency,
it is not to be sought and not to be declined."
A rival, one who wanted to kiss
whom he was kissing, said: "The ample
dimensions of his kissing apparatus
enabled him to rest one side of it
while the other was on active duty."
It was written, if women had the vote,
he would have been President,
kissing everyone in sight,
dancing on tables ("a grand Terpsichorean
performance ..."), kissing everyone,
sometimes two at once, kissing everyone,
the almost-President
of our people.


by Thomas Lux |

Plague Victims Catapulted Over Walls Into Besieged City

 Early germ
warfare. The dead
hurled this way look like wheels
in the sky. Look: there goes
Larry the Shoemaker, barefoot, over the wall,
and Mary Sausage Stuffer, see how she flies,
and the Hatter twins, both at once, soar
over the parapet, little Tommy's elbow bent
as if in a salute,
and his sister, Mathilde, she follows him,
arms outstretched, through the air,
just as she did
on earth.


by Thomas Lux |

The Road That Runs Beside The River

 follows the river as it bends
along the valley floor,
going the way it must.
Where water goes, so goes the road,
if there's room (not in a ravine,
gorge), the river
on your right or left. Left is better: when you're driving,
it's over your elbow across
the road.
You see the current, which is
what the river is: the river
in the river, a thing sliding fast forward
inside a thing sliding not so fast forward.
Driving with, beside, the river's flow is good.
Another pleasure, driving against it: it's the same river
someone else will see
somewhere else downstream -- same play,
new theater, different set.
Wide, shallow, fairly fast,
roundy-stone streambed, rocky-land river,
it turns there or here -- the ground
telling it so -- draining dull
mountains to the north,
migrating, feeding a few hard-fleshed fish
who live in it. One small sandbar splits
the river, then it loops left,
the road right, and the river's silver
slips under the trees,
into the forest,
and over the sharp perpendicular
edge of the earth.


by Thomas Lux |

Refrigerator 1957

 More like a vault -- you pull the handle out
and on the shelves: not a lot,
and what there is (a boiled potato
in a bag, a chicken carcass
under foil) looking dispirited,
drained, mugged. This is not
a place to go in hope or hunger.
But, just to the right of the middle
of the middle door shelf, on fire, a lit-from-within red,
heart red, sexual red, wet neon red,
shining red in their liquid, exotic,
aloof, slumming
in such company: a jar
of maraschino cherries. Three-quarters
full, fiery globes, like strippers
at a church social. Maraschino cherries, maraschino,
the only foreign word I knew. Not once
did I see these cherries employed: not
in a drink, nor on top
of a glob of ice cream,
or just pop one in your mouth. Not once.
The same jar there through an entire
childhood of dull dinners -- bald meat,
pocked peas and, see above,
boiled potatoes. Maybe
they came over from the old country,
family heirlooms, or were status symbols
bought with a piece of the first paycheck
from a sweatshop,
which beat the pig farm in Bohemia,
handed down from my grandparents
to my parents
to be someday mine,
then my child's?
They were beautiful
and, if I never ate one,
it was because I knew it might be missed
or because I knew it would not be replaced
and because you do not eat
that which rips your heart with joy.


by Thomas Lux |

Torn Shades

 How, in the first place, did
they get torn-pulled down hard
too many times: to hide a blow,
or sex, or a man
in stained pajamas? The tear blade-shaped,
serrated, in tatters. And once,
in a house flatside to a gas station, 
as snow fell at a speed and angle you could lean on,
two small hands (a patch of throat, a whip
of hair across her face)-
two small hands
parting a torn shade
to welcome a wedge of gray sunlight into that room.


by Thomas Lux |

A Kiss

 One wave falling forward meets another wave falling
forward. Well-water,
hand-hauled, mineral, cool, could be
a kiss, or pastures
fiery green after rain, before
the grazers. The kiss -- like a shoal of fish whipped
one way, another way, like the fever dreams
of a million monkeys -- the kiss
carry me -- closer than your carotid artery -- to you


by Thomas Lux |

I Love You Sweatheart

 A man risked his life to write the words.
A man hung upside down (an idiot friend
holding his legs?) with spray paint
to write the words on a girder fifty feet above
a highway. And his beloved,
the next morning driving to work...?
His words are not (meant to be) so unique.
Does she recognize his handwriting?
Did he hint to her at her doorstep the night before
of "something special, darling, tomorrow"?
And did he call her at work
expecting her to faint with delight
at his celebration of her, his passion, his risk?
She will know I love her now,
the world will know my love for her!
A man risked his life to write the world.
Love is like this at the bone, we hope, love
is like this, Sweatheart, all sore and dumb
and dangerous, ignited, blessed--always,
regardless, no exceptions,
always in blazing matters like these: blessed.


by Thomas Lux |

A Library Of Skulls

 Shelves and stacks and shelves of skulls, a Dewey
Decimal number inked on each unfurrowed forehead.
Here's a skull
who, before he lost his fleshy parts
and lower bones, once
walked beside a river (we're in the poetry section
now) his head full of love
and loneliness; and this smaller skull,
in the sociology stacks, smiling (they're all
smiling)—it's been empty
a hundred years. That slot
across the temple? An ax blow
that fractured
her here. Look at this one from the children's shelves,
a baby, his fontanel
a screaming mouth and this time no teeth, no smile.
Here's a few (history)—a murderer,
and this one—see how close their eye sockets!—a thief,
and here's a rack of torturers' skulls
beneath which a longer row of the tortured,
and look: generals' row,
their epaulets
on the shelves to each side of them.
Shelves and shelves, stacks stacked on top of stacks,
floor above floor,
this towering high-rise library
of skulls, not another bone in the place
and just now the squeak of a wheel
on a cart piled high with skulls
on their way back to shelves
while in the next aisle
a cart filling with those about to be loaned
to the tall, broken-hearted man waiting
at the desk, his library card
face down before him.


by Thomas Lux |

A Little Tooth

 Your baby grows a tooth, then two,
and four, and five, then she wants some meat
directly from the bone. It's all

over: she'll learn some words, she'll fall
in love with cretins, dolts, a sweet
talker on his way to jail. And you,

your wife, get old, flyblown, and rue
nothing. You did, you loved, your feet
are sore. It's dusk. Your daughter's tall.


by Thomas Lux |

Lucky

 One sweet pound of filet mignon
sizzles on the roadside. Let's say a hundred yards below
the buzzard. The buzzard
sees no cars or other buzzards
between the mountain range due north
and the horizon to the south
and across the desert west and east
no other creature's nose leads him to this feast.
The buzzard's eyes are built for this: he can see the filet's raw
and he likes the sprig
of parsley in this brown and dusty place.
No abdomens to open here before he eats.
No tearing, slashing with his beak,
no offal-wading
to pick and rip the softest parts.
He does not need to threaten or screech
to keep the other buzzards from his meat.
He circles slowly down,
not a flap, not a shiver in his wide wings,
and lands before his dinner, an especially lucky buzzard,
who bends his neck to pray, then eats.