Mudlark Poster No. 44 (2003)

Erin Lambert

Stories | The Unproven
In Light of My Fourth Complaint
For Alexander Calder | At Last

Erin Lambert is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and worked for several years at a homeless shelter in Richmond before moving on to complete an MFA in creative writing at Syracuse University. She now resides in Queens and works for a non-profit education organization in Manhattan. Her work has appeared in SPECTRUM, CANADIAN WOMAN STUDIES JOURNAL, and is forthcoming in FINE MADNESS.


Perhaps her body tired letting go. Dressed only in his coat,
she may have looked for things forgotten, items easily discarded: lint
and matches, splinter caught in the collar.

You first passed her house on an unfamiliar road noting only the trail
of dust that bloomed behind you, because the more you move
through this world the more removed this world becomes.

When you finally notice how even the lawn is left untouched
and every window refuses light, it is after she answers the door
still naked in his coat, white lilies in darkness behind her;
long after you turn away to see the road settle back to ground,
that sun and din of pine tree, the distance remaining.

The Unproven

For months I was visited by a voice that remained in a doorway
but refused to speak to me, calling only my cat by her nickname
while tufts of fur shed from nerves floated through the dark.

I tell you this because it is not the unproven I cannot accept.
It is my mailbox of absent responses, the discomforts
of giving too much, the lost measures of darkness

moving through this house after storms that leave the window
screens full of stars; each evaporates by morning, in time
for those who sleep to insist they never were.

In Light of My Fourth Complaint

This morning brought me nothing but my hands
out of darkness, another sky exhausted
by a plane scaled to fit on the crest of my thumb.

This breeze lifts the scent of our herds of shoes and handbags
to a horse that knows us only as hammers and dirt.

My complaints next to him are as tasteful as sink stains;
each one hangs in my mind as an empty shirt.

May I grow into misgivings, the family arthritis,
my eyes as wet seeds in a cellar of darkness
should I become indifferent to what suffers about me,
the rot in the hooves of that horse.

For Alexander Calder

We are more ourselves than earthbound, mobile birds, sculpted shadows.
I had an orange bike once I had a cold and then a life around my someday
circus, glass bells. With wire, I found means to quit electricity, speak softly
to a row of cucumbers, but my distaste for office light remains as a series
of unfortunate hands cramped over keys. For I used my own to rescue
buildings, to demonstrate in red with human touch how one's presence is
a series of connections all at once — gone, like a spark — drawn through air.

At Last

A woman stands, wanting sleep; her face
vague as the bottom of a bottle, means
to say: not at all happy, not entirely unkind.

Sunlight on half her hair, long and under: dark circles
around eyes that lead to a breadline in Leningrad.
As if this photo of an inconsolable crowd, viewed
through a shot-out window, cannot offer us enough.

I made the woman up, thought she would distract us
from that windowsill with breadcrumbs,
that window full of flies
dead among the rivets and last catch of light in nails.

Copyright © Mudlark 2003
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