24 September 2014

Poem I Wish I'd Written: Dorianne Laux's “Antilamentation”

by Shauna Osborn, Contributing Editor 

While I often appreciate the work of Dorianne Laux, “Antilamentation” makes me downright envious. The wonderful use of unspecific detail that still invokes specificity and familiarity in the reader, the pacing that is expertly utilized throughout the poem, and the intimacy achieved in a short number of lines are all worth envy.  It is also a wonderful example of the strength second person point of view can bring to a poem.  Ultimately, what makes my skin turn a dark shade of green in regard to this poem is the imagery.  Days after my first reading of it, I would catch myself visualizing pieces of the poem: the quivering lover in the parking lot, the pockets full of used matches, and the broken TV set. The one image my mind downright refused to release was of the onion rings swept across the floor.  That image invokes so much emotional and intellectual resonance I could not block it if I tried. So much of life can find its way to the dirty restaurant floor, abandoned by the ones who ordered it and created it, left for someone else to sweep away.  Here, Laux saves it, brushes it off, sets it under carnival lights, and celebrates it. 


By Dorianne Laux


Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook, not
the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication, not
the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punch line, the door or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don't regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the living room couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You've walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You've traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the window.
Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied of expectation.
Relax. Don't bother remembering any of it. Let's stop here,
under the lit sign on the corner, and watch all the people walk by. 

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