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Lauren Camp

A Door in the Evening


This house that filled us with 13 varieties 

of rice, brown boiled eggs, creases of language.


There was not a single sentence that was ordinary.

Tender lamb and copper pots;


a banquet every week, and we hovered. 

The house was brick. Back door, side door. 


Each of the reasons, the clutter of years. 

I used to live here. I live here


The beginning of forgetting comes quickly.

Somewhere Behind

(erasure from an essay in Granta by Milan Kundera)


one word is



a definition of



and eternal 




of the individual



We must answer each question

with another question.


We must erase our first sorrow. 


             How shall we hope? 

                         We must hope.

Do you remember the prayer we said

bent over, the giving of body to ground? 


We must shape ourselves

first to shadow and then to infinite,

the wait of such hunger in every cell. 


No matter the hours. 

I’ll tell you everything. I’ll tell you the silence.

The Most Beautiful Waiting


Many things are better in retrospect 

(the craving, the tempest) but it’s good being compressed 

into the sweeter now 

with your beautiful hair in half-marks 

of gray, while outside, crows grope at the ground 


in their dark garments.

We can see what is pure in what is 

collapsing, relish the new noise 

of our secondary selves. Already our bodies seem close 

to grimace, we who awaken with wrinkles 


and dots. You show me a hunger hemmed 

but unfinished, 

the same way you dance,

loose and unafraid of the earth. 

The geometry of our lives has pushed in, 


so we’re in bed before 10, but we’re still pillow 

wisdom and tabernacle, still morning smear. 

Even if I sleep sloped too deep into night, you murmur 

love, and my tattered flight back 

carries the lick and purr of your voice.

An Uprising 




My father arrived from his only tour      of Iraq and now he is

showing off scars to anyone standing outside I watch 

his tongue keep spending all its strange speaking on nomadic 

thoughts all of them furloughed or impossible 

to follow even now he’s                   demanding 

a new war with his dark noise and we’re deep 

in his thrall all of us always 


when there are children around my father smiles 

at them working          the dimple back in his cheek until his face 

is restless holes sometimes 

the muscular work of pretending leaves open nerve


he is         not           going back and meanwhile he’s pacing 

his history criticizing the street in his magnificent disobedient language 

his self occurring 

at random 

as souvenirs he liked for an instant       he is always adding 

some velocity to the erratic by throwing 

an accent over syllábles running over the ending the revolution 

of making the world unfamiliar          and sends his notes with extra swirls 




His boyhood picture the black hair the deep 

drooping eyes he’s fighting                for something    he’s loaded

with here or elsewhere he moves past the corner 

of the market the market not the one 

that trailed the Tigris his gaze is impossible doesn’t he know 

he is in the American city with black clouds 

doesn’t he see he is getting old without his real name with the illusion

of an ambivalent 

reproduction     offspring    he is standing 

by the market and the water skins and bends

beside him in the shadows of two moons but he’s not paying attention he never



he is watching results of the shadows what if 

a troupe of belly dancers came by hurling 

their flesh canticles with the high notes of their hips          for a minute 

my father’s vehemence would become unreliable and his eyes would work

electronically       then he’d be back reprising his every

opportunity for attention pulling out

all the numbers he’s kept on small scraps of paper final tallies the stock 

market swagger for all the weeks of the endless last years        he is adorned 

with numbers and facts

of loss 




The whole time he is bending and arranging his bald head is wide to the sun 

he is systematic side by side papers prove boisterous 

growth and dark curves        later his voice will still 

be too big 

and I will find this awful the fragments of what he sees of the city 

around us the city he sees an alley the city

is a skeleton and where he has hurdled the ribs         the city a carcass the city

now beheadings or now breasts cut from women his relatives shot and he’s ready 

to squat down again to straighten his private investments 

that are too much are growing 

into the sidewalk stomped by small sneakers              never

never never never and he has been away to that place that never 


opened the center of the clamoring the animals the damage

where the river gave temporary fluctuations and he is a lot better 

and worse and remember 

this is as much as possible for the 64 years since Iraq 

to use his whole life as reference and it is too much

to never again see the brick or the dishdasha the abayah his sabta to kneel by the rings 

of the river and be a survivor

and what he is now is always disappointed always ruined


 Lauren Camp is the author of two collections. Her third book, One Hundred Hungers, won the Dorset Prize (Tupelo Press, 2016). Her poems appear in Sukoon, Mizna, Slice Magazine, World Literature Today, and elsewhere. Other literary honors include the Margaret Randall Poetry Prize and an Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award. Lauren produces and hosts “Audio Saucepan”—a global music program interwoven with contemporary poetry—on Santa Fe Public Radio.

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