September 24, 2021

Lance Larsen

URINE POEM

The last thing the dying do is pee themselves.
My paramedic brother explained this
to me at my aunt’s funeral. Everyone, he said, 
Gandhi, Marilyn Monroe, Batman, Catwoman,
even James Dean, who died driving his silver 
Spyder, which he nicknamed “Little Bastard.”
Even Jesus, I asked? Well, he said, maybe not Jesus.

I was ten and scared, almost eleven
and constantly blushing, and now the world
was wetly new. If someone died on screen, 
I pictured a puddle. For expiring queens,
I added enough piss to lick survivors.
No one was off the hook. That final death
kiss in Romeo and Juliet, the Zeffirelli version—

I pictured a dampish blush in the prince’s crotch.
All the great war scenes, ten thousand bayoneted 
bodies—they smelled of blood and smoke.
Also urine. For weeks, my world was soaked 
in briny Hallelujahs, an ode to spills—
all undies of the dead soaked, his and hers, 
pants and skirts, shorts and slinky gowns.

Despite our noble architecture, wet would out, 
water would wend its briny way. James Bond,
the Beatles, the life guard I was crushing on, 
prickles of hair under her arms, all would trickle
into the next life, their thighs bathed 
in the motherly stuff we once swam in,
all skin christened in the end, all soiled,

all almost sacramental. Thank you gravity,
thank you dews distilling. We drank 
and we simmered, and this broth snaked 
our fissures and crannied our nooks. 
Wolfman Jack, Nadia Comaneci, all three
glorious sisters on the Brady Bunch, John Wayne, 
me. Each time we peed was a dress rehearsal.

First the dry whoosh of spirit leaving the body, 
which the ancients weighed in whispers,
in the wing beat of a gnat, then the dam 
would break. Or at least leak. Exodus 
in the end, water and salt, water and silt, 
all brackish molecules 3.5 billion years young,
all seeping back to the sea, goodbye President

Nixon, goodbye Julia Child, no one to trace
that final journey but angels and lapping dogs.

from Rattle #72, Summer 2021

__________

Lance Larsen: “In a poem over 20 years old, I describe floating in a swimming pool late at night: ‘I kept the lights off to blur my edges.’ In childhood, the demarcation between self and world often felt smudgy, as if I was on the verge of dissolving into something beautiful or terrifying. I was never entirely clear which. How to center yourself on this darkly turning planet? When I try to rewind the clock via poetry, that strange opaqueness, that lovely permeability often returns. And mystery, once again, is everywhere.” (web)

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March 29, 2021

Lance Larsen

AND ALSO I RAN

I wheedled a ten-minute visit from the night 
nurse. This was Friday, the evening after 
my best friend hurtled through a windshield 
at 70 mph, the day before I drove 
to a numbing family reunion for blue-hair aunts. 
He had a machine to count his breaths, 

a tube to collect his pee, and a pair of legs 
that would never again shuffle or glide through this life. 
Every six hours his Stryker bed flipped him 
like a flapjack, stomach down for now, 
with a cutout for his face, so I sprawled 
on the floor. Days before, we had lain on grass, 

close as sleeping bags, counting stars 
and girlfriends we didn’t have. Tonight, more 
of the same bull, and less. His chin and my dirty 
shoes trading gossip, the eighty-seven stitches
on his back playing hard to get, and the moon 
outside skinny dipping in the fountain. 

I was fifteen plus four months, and my friend 
was fifteen plus blood all over the Ford 
Bronco, even on the road, even on trees, 
he said, promise me that you’ll definitely check 
out the crash site. And I said no, not 
one part of me wants to see blood on trees.

Before leaving, I counted stitches on my friend’s 
bad shoulder, then touched his good one, 
warmish like when you put your arm around 
a girl at a matinee. And the hum of machines 
was a prayer to healing, and the dirty
tiles were a prayer to grit, and the intern 

was a ten-fingered prayer to vitals and charts.
And my friend saying Hey, man, later, was amen. 
Outside, the sprinklers sputtered and hissed
and did a silvery dance with the grass, the stars 
tried to go all the way with sleeping cars, 
and the dark said, What is this, amateur hour? 

I broke into a run then, sliding through chain 
link to an endless empty parking lot. With so many 
overhead lights I had three shadows at once, 
like three wavery souls. When I ran, they moved, 
one pinning me to pavement, one sliding 
off like oily water, one being born up ahead. 

What did I care? When I closed my eyes 
they went away. Just a buzzing breeze 
and these slabs called legs doing their work. 
They didn’t want to run. My lungs pushed 
them, my slippery beating heart, and my friend’s 
catheter leaking amber bubbles into room 514. 

Who needed a soul, or the disappearing shadow 
of a soul? Breath was enough, and hurrying
blood, provided it stayed inside. Nine-thirty
at night, the day after and the day before. 
A clean, brisk, heavy, terrifying, innocent 
Friday in June. I ran and ran and also I ran.

from Rattle #70, Winter 2020
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist

__________

Lance Larsen: “In a poem over twenty years old, I describe floating in a swimming pool late at night: ‘I kept the lights off to blur my edges.’ In childhood, the demarcation between self and world often felt smudgy, as if I was on the verge of dissolving into something beautiful or terrifying. It was never entirely clear which. How to center yourself on this darkly turning planet? When I try to rewind the clock via poetry, that strange opaqueness, that lovely permeability often returns. And mystery, once again, is everywhere.”

 

Lance Larsen is the guest on Rattlecast #97! Click here to join us live at 8 p.m. EDT …

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