Two Poems by Liz Cambra

Selections from​, Lamp Poems

The lamp was discovered
when the first woman held a word
so long in her mouth,
it was subsumed into her gums.
This abnegation lit the skin–
the first cosmetic. Also,
the first lamp.


Lamps with a wick of hair were popular in 1849. All hair of the bride-to-be, all hair
adept at falling onto anyone’s collar, all hair stolen sideways into the mouth during sleep
(like a ribbon one may pull to prompt the tongue) was shorn and plaited into individual
plaits.¹  The hair was laid into a decorative box made of resinous wood, or struck with
little squares of inlaid mirror. Our future groom selected one plait from this cloister to
replace the cotton wick of his plain bedside lamp. A boiling smell (superb!) ensued as
the lamp was lit. All at once, our groom noticed the stone-like braid on his ottoman, the
blunt, cut hair of  his velvet rug– he experienced what can be only described as an
extreme startlement of hair within every item long succumbed to his purchase. When
the plait-wick  finally did burn out, it was always with a piercing snap, like the click of a
tongue, or a lid blown shut.² 


¹ How did these brides, living years beneath such broad bowers of hair, appear in the scalp at the lectures,dances and operas which were their prime enjoyments? Much like the toes of far-eastern women, the hairof these brides was likewise muted– and the brides likewise revered.
² The bride’s scalp was wrapped  in a pale scarf to be unwound by her husband, who would revel in the 
sight of each patchy, inarticulance of new growth.

Is All Delicacy Reserved for Exotic Pets?

Armadillo Keepers? I have dated.
Each would catch the thing on their knee,
and with a weak hand massage a balm
of some limpid jelly sharp with pepper,
into their pet’s lean plates. Though I find beekeepers,
framed always in a purr of bees
more gentle still. One thin-lipped man
kept dragonflies. We frequented still waters,
railed passionately near buckets of effluvia.
He had a light way of turning up
the underside of a leaf, for the flickering
cordials of eggs, that made me feel haughty,
like a witness to some important sympathy,
some male nervousness for life.


Liz Cambra lives in California with her boyfriend and other dreams of various pets. Her poetry has appeared in The Feminist Wire.