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Lauren Camp



Sunrise. Tight roads

hew to a line

of Sitka. Gatekeepers, gray scaffold.


Agnes Martin burned her paintings.

For twenty years, she painted and for twenty years

she made them

ash. Someone in the kitchen called this ambition.


Tonight, we build a fire.

Sit on wooden chairs, a wire bench.


Where a mouth might enter

one solitude follows another, ready to loosen.


A man smokes a cigar: fingers the fume.

In the pit, flames bend

and funnel. I say very little, watch the red


sparks spit. Bright scatterings.

What if ambition is stopping? How immediate

it feels to scent the air.




When minced by dark all those taut months

         of exhaustions she had


to align what was falling

         between. Vulnerable artist after those clanging


years wanted only

         to render content in parts put long


as her hand. Forth, back

         with the line to wrap


to the stillest nesting. She wanted

         to return her mind through restraint. The self


couldn’t carry a thousand

         windows, but soft


graphite could write a proximal better.

         She wanted to praise the well


of repetition. Say grace

         to the everyday. She was drawing a cure.




She had finally begun

troubling the straws of her body to observe

what she favored as refuge. The first voice told her

she was lucky. The second was



She made a choice

to wash to faint traces.


Nothing is bare if the utter inside

has substance. Look—


paper birch branches collide in wind,

the cold points straight forward.

-from An Eye in Each Square (River River Books), selected by Assistant Editor, Karen Carr

Lauren Camp is a 2023 Academy of American Poets Laureate fellow and the author of seven books, most recently An Eye in Each Square (River River Books) and Worn Smooth between Devourings (NYQ Books). Honors include the Dorset Prize and finalist citations for the Arab American Book Award, Housatonic Book Award and Adrienne Rich Award for Poetry. Her poems have been translated into Mandarin, Turkish, Spanish, French, and Arabic, and have recently appeared in Missouri Review, Poem-a-Day and Mid-American Review. She currently serves as Poet Laureate of New Mexico.­

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