Charles G Lauder, Jr is an American poet who has lived in a rural pocket of the UK for the past eighteen years. Dreams, politics, his Texas childhood, relationships, and family life dominate his poetry.
The moment was a colossus we built up to,
at first with wheelbarrows of sand
to mix the mortar, simple bamboo scaffolding,
then, as tension mounted, cranes to swing
sun-burnt beams into place.
When you look back at the terrace houses,
Ms Malone setting off for work,
Mr Mangera opening his shop,
it blocks the view: all you see are the builders.
Each bolt torqued floated over the city,
like a bullet out of a gun.
From my window I wondered
if today would be the day. I could not
medicate myself to sleep, I could not shit.
Would we know when the last plate
had been rivetted? Yes,
there would be silence.
How the World is Changed
Kaplan leads the revolution, drinks straight from the keg as we congregate in old manor houses writing our manifestoes line by line. We are so poor Kaplan’s jeans can’t hold his balls in place. We take over the library, read Berryman and Tate, then invade the President’s office who compares us to Hitler and John Wilkes Booth. We crank out a magazine, drop acid, fuck on the floor. To leapfrog ten years’ experience, I pick up artists, grad students in bookstores, flings that last a week but no more. I exile myself to France after everyone else has gone and come back again.
When I return, a child’s hand in each of mine, Kaplan has shrugged off the patriarchy, leads the revolution under his mother’s name. They take over the armoury, the barracks, a radio station, banners and words held high. My demonstration of support is on a quieter street, very few in attendance, a couple pamphlets handed out. I am a bystander, having risen from my comfortable bed, my mayhem shushed by the crowd. Any explosion may or may not be heard by those in front. Definitely not by Kaplan and those marching past.
Kaplan is Professor, with round flimsy lenses, dark curly locks replaced with white and wiry, poised like Walter Benjamin for author photo. The manifesto, long established as status quo, showing signs of wearing thin, backwards, outdated, elitist, discriminating. A chair is named in his honor, his papers bequeathed to the library. I attend the odd gathering, share the odd idea, receive the odd glance, like a novelty wobbled off the shelf. A rare copy of the magazine is found in a second-hand shop in Toledo.
She found the shoulders stretched as a footbridge
across a stream, the eyes as ponds where lovers swim,
the depth of the murky water hard to judge.
His fingers were the ticklish tide the clinging seaweed
playing with her feet, his feet the thunderclap
as they pounded the earth in search of his body.
The hair grew as wind-blown Texas grass, the armpits
were shrubs where spiders spun webs, the woven hairs
of his arms legs belly and back clothed the poor,
his body’s heat piped into their homes and bedrooms.
Ears, nose and mouth were scattered caverns
where her sight and touch fumbled in darkness.
His buttocks, the curly lock above his coccyx lived as a boar,
the pancreas and intestines as mysterious creatures
at the bottom of the sea. The liver was a barstool.
His heart slept homeless beneath the motorway, his brain
served as moulded jelly at a five year old’s party, his navel
the opening of an anthill poked by anteater and child.
His legs and arms were the colonnade of a Greek ruin,
his neck the chopping block of a lumberjack, his skin lay
as beach blanket umbrella, trampoline, a cup of cold tea.
Because he had always avoided a fight his bones,
the phalanges and metatarsals, were honed into bullets,
his tongue was rent into a moth-eaten library carpet
and a shag rug in a brothel. But his shape-changing cock
was the hardest to find, button mushroom in a field,
Big Sur sequoia, more often than not an octopus’s tentacle.