Lauren Camp | 3 poems

Missing a Verse 

Didn’t matter that you didn’t know all
the lyrics to Paul Simon’s The Boxer.
You knew they would save you
as you slipped down the hill from wherever 
you shouldn’t have been back 
to your dorm in the dark. Offkey, 
you assured those faithful 
words, getting some flung pulse 
in the stanzas, then lathering it loud 
as snow left its solitude 
in slabs. It was always winter, 
compound cold, one dying sky. 
Anything could happen on your way 
home. The billions of shadows 
had details, so you opened your mouth. 
The night must be sung. No sicko 
could catch you while you were 
constellating the sequence, 
feeding the black such a resonant effort.

(first published in Spry Literary Journal)

Algae Farm   

In the valley, behind long roads to the farms,
three men check a vast tank 

using wits of borrowed scientists.
No plow or field. Just tender uni-cellular seaweed.

In the lot, a truck turned round under the range 
of pine boughs and laconic mountains holds out

its bed of perfumed West Slope peaches. 
Liquid sweet and soft and almost too much 

weeping richness. The men inside explain 
the total need is an acre foot of dead water 

constantly renewed for a kingdom 
of edible algae. In a glass jar on the table,

a sour green-lustered sample. A swamp in a bottle.
One man in slacks gestures by shaking the liquid

repeatedly. One thousand bugs he says. 
He swirls them awhile and smiles. 

The ranch runs parallel to a patchwork of lavender
and barbed wire that latches back dangers. 

Under the tent, beside crumpled hills,
I listen to how they’ll disgorge 

moisture to dry powder, start the tank again. 
The man in tan cap nearly chortles

with loot calculations. The tank glows humid. 
I step outside, decide to buy another peach.

(first published in Spiral Orb)

Slickensides and Fault Planes
     For Ashlynne Mike 

Spring arrives with its bewilderment, an explosive sort
of pleading. I live in the desert and even here my thoughts 
are sometimes violent. In the same wind time—Shiprock, 
New Mexico on the Navajo Nation. Tsé Bit' A'í 
which means “rock with wings.” In order to exist
I’ve been sleeping more darkly, night lunging
up at me. On my right side, my eyes distant. All I can see 
is a blackening desolate edge. Almost every night 
I am abducted. I enter an unguarded reservation 
of terrors. The peak of Shiprock stands 7,178 feet above 
sea level, solidified from old ridges of pressure. 
My phone convulses, sculpting six squeals through 
the room. The sounds furl into my body: An 11-year-old 
missing in Shiprock. I turn, still designing harsh stories. 
Lured forward, I’m never alone. An Amber Alert 
issued at 2:27 AM Tuesday. The family is holding 
their palms open to sorrow. The tribe is holding 
their breath. Spring brings its brutal dust. I roll over, dead-
asleep, captive. My bounty of nightmares began 
at 11 and continues for decades. The maiden sky 
is nearly an asterisk of light. Shiprock juts with its points 
from a plain. They found her on the far side of a desert 
hilltop. Her body, on Tuesday, in Shiprock. We won’t talk 
of New Mexico as a land of enchantment. Everyone says 
how heroic the light. Light as shelter, as mantle. I moved here 
to salvage all my visible breaks, to mix them with blood,
with my flesh. Shiprock is a fortress: eroded, fractured. 
It is all that has been revealed. That night: the quick turn 
of my back against the sheets, the topography 
of knees tucked to chest. I’ve always blamed the dark 
for my visions, this interrogation of dimension. I survive 
within  it. Ashlynne entered a stranger’s maroon van 
and the roads split again, crusty. He led her off 
to the stripped skin of blue hours, into the deserted distance 
to ache and weigh shadows. Reports say the stranger 
hit her twice in the head with a tire iron. Most mornings 
I feel like I’ll never get up, I’m so bruised 
from the nothing on nothing. They found her six miles 
from the pinnacle. The sky outside my bedroom window 
fringes with insolent crows, their squarish wings. 
My sweaty body, another knee bent. All these mysteries. 
On a good night, no grinding of teeth. The news reporters 
repeated “as they drove away in the van, Ashlynne was 
waving.” With wings she now goes all of the nights not alone.

(first published in Cutthroat)



Lauren Camp is the author of three books, most recently One Hundred Hungers, winner of the Dorset Prize (Tupelo Press, 2016). Her poems appear in New England Review, Poetry International, Slice, Linebreak, Beloit Poetry Journal and elsewhere. She is a Black Earth Institute Fellow and the producer/host of Santa Fe Public Radio’s “Audio Saucepan,” which interweaves global music with contemporary poetry.


2 thoughts on “Lauren Camp | 3 poems

  1. “Slickensides and Fault Planes”: A powerfully moving mix of first person point of view, New Mexico geology and culture: at once empirical and spiritual.


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