Caryn Lazzuri

Five Poems

Volume 15:1, Winter 2014


from The Encyclopedia of Love

An alarm is going off somewhere
I can’t sleep anyway with these birds
in the chimney the incessant pecking
at the skylight I mean I’m listening
to the murmurs of strangers all morning
Your arms are kind of limp
I find it hard to make conversation
The eggs are almost orange almost
sunrise sherbet the cloud of smoke
taking shape around your neck
Do you think about dying
is the question I ask on every
second date and it’s a test
with only one answer
My sister’s bone is infected
she’s lying in with fever
and I don’t want to be rescued
I want to be punished
my arms are too heavy
to lift most mornings
I think about it all the time
dying I mean
How bodies just turn on themselves
Let’s fight for something
worth fighting for
Love is the only thing
I can think of


W is for War

from The Encyclopedia of Love

The mind is a darkness
the length of my gravel driveway.
My hands are the oldest things I own.
I’d like to ask how you feel about that.
But your back is a spot ahead of me
that punctuates the darkness.
You wake up early to draw clouds
and leave charcoal rings around my ankles
when you hold me down.

I taught you to play Checkers
and the card game War.
A deck of sharp, fresh plastic,
with your face on them instead of Kings.
Those games we played
are no more childish than we are.
Watch: The seasick waves skirt
the wet pilings of the pier.
The old house stands like a sentry
unmoved for years, and I’m there now
watching the clouds paint morning,
hoping I’ll think of anything but you.

Oysters are very hard to open,
black and resistant, then the viscous
reward of their body. Sometimes,
a trace of sand between the teeth.
I ask for grit in everything but my food.
After dinner, I ask for your hand
between my thighs and you surprise me.
Come here. Name one good reason why
we don’t believe bivalves are just like love.

There are only certain things about you
that I mean to miss. I ask you to write them
in the sand with your toe, drag your foot like a pen.
The river arrives in those small valleys,
temporal and wet, insistent against memory.
Here, the tide, like war, erases everything.


F is for Fiction

from The Encyclopedia of Love

The man is reading a story out loud to the woman,
who is more of a girl. It is The New Yorker,
a story about a slot and a tab finding love—
one inside the other, you can guess which.

It is a hot day to be in a car listening to stories
but he says bold and expressive things
using his small and expressive mouth
and she is confident
although a little lonely.

In a few days they will have mediocre sex
which she will think is good sex
inside a hot tent which they will both agree is hot
although they will mean it differently.

There will be no meaning.
But the girl will think of the story he read
about tabs and slots
about puzzles that fit together

And the man will think about
something else altogether.


Betsy Stewart, "Biocriticals 2," acrylic and sumi ink on canvas, 2013

Betsy Stewart, “Biocriticals 2,” acrylic and sumi ink on canvas, 2013

Next You Draw Wings

I draw shapes on your back and make you guess.
This one is a box of spaghetti.
The next one is your hometown.

You think I’ve drawn the smoke-stain
around the basement ceiling, the red shadow
of John’s military tour. Really, this is the path
we’ve walked around each other for years.
It starts close, and every circuit widens,
but I don’t have the heart to tell you.

When it’s my turn, you smooth down
the palette of my pale skin.
You start easy:

Mickey Mouse.
Burt Bacharach.
The entire ocean.


Deflation Hollow

We have carved a tumble in the mountain,
a bent, smooth hollow, like a dimple.
You are abrasive. I have teeth.
We are very patient, and work on this
for millions of years. Sometimes you remind me
of snow: the way you sting my cheeks;
your sharp, surprising edges; your speed.

We create a gradation of lines in the stone
that look just like the lines in my book,
The Gradation of Lines.

We meet at the bottom of the hollow,
my dimples smooth, your eyes like snow.
There is never anything here to tumble,
except sand, and each other.



Caryn Lazzuri is Exhibitions Manager at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. Her poetry broadside, "F is for Forgiveness," was published in December 2013 by Rye House Press. She writes occasional articles for Culinate and Museum. Lazzuri earned an MFA from Emerson College and currently lives in Baltimore where she splits her time between art and books.