Issue > Poetry
Michael Lauchlan

Michael Lauchlan

Michael Lauchlan has lived in and around Detroit his entire life. His poems have appeared in many publications, including New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, Apple Valley, Boxcar, Cider Press, Tampa Review and Innisfree, and have been anthologized in Abandon Automobile (Wayne State University Press) and A Mind Apart: Poems of Melandholy, Madness and Addiction (Oxford University Press).


When he called her a bitch, I went for him,
wishing, of course, she hadn't added
her scolding to my words when he and
his pals scuffed my truck with a rock.
It's not like I knew what I'd do, being old
and never much of a fighter anyhow.  
No one wins such stupidity, but I
kept moving just the same. Even sober,
my father would have barreled for them,
with some switch flipped behind his eyes.
Long dead, he wasn't dragging me
up the berm to their spot on the tracks.
I'm the man who carried my fist.
Somehow words leapt up and worked
an uneasy magic, as the mouthy guy
squinted, furled his dark lips. Down
the far side of the weedy slope, they slid
into the void that lay between school
and unemployment, having saved perhaps
a bit of face by spitting one last curse.


Maybe too much time teaching
kids as they dart finch-like
from Sophocles to a girl, say,
texting him how pissed she is
because of some crime he
can't recall and never understood
(yet the mention of the corner
where it happened colors him
with shame that could bud guilt
if he stuck with the thought)
and then a bell rings and he
glowers at me for no good
reason so I snipe his phone
of course, since it's my job and
what I was weighing as scene two
unfolded the horrid tragedy
which we know already.
In the roiling class exchange,
I pocket it, still vibrating
with plaintive anger that now
lapses into an imagined box
where messages wait screaming
at each other until he, penitent
appears to unravel his faults, to face
the retribution of the gods.
But no, I've always
twitched like this, incongruous,
burbling my pal's last joke
in the midst of his wake or
trolling for news as tots wail
and dinner burns and the real
from all its coverts cries out.


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