Three Poems

by Laura Goode


Laura, you are unerringly yourself: twenty-seven, white, & a woman. Often overwhelmed by the endlessness of possibility, often convinced you chose incorrectly, often impatient or brash, but rarely impulsive. Today you will be clear.

The assignment is to write & to be a person at the same time, to grab the poem thundering over the plains pull it into your body with one hand & transcribe with the other all without succumbing to the suspicion that if you must wash

tomorrow, the importance of washing today may be negotiable. You are required to note the coral bric-a-brac scars, the infinite mangles, termless conditions, far uglier than your own. It does not fit, you say. Nothing stops you from leaving

& yet you stay. When I tell you approximate the sunlight I do not mean imitate it poorly—I mean draw nearer to it. Who is to say one misses the past more than the present? Is the scent of cut fennel, like licorice sunbathing, the past? The thing you & I have in common

is the same thing that makes us grow older. You don’t want to talk to anyone, talking opens a file begins a prelude initiates a record the only completion of which will be death, after which you will be left bereft, baying it’s not the same, talking to emails. Have I

told you this already? You cannot slake the grasp of that which grasps you; nothing is moving in the shadow where you think it is. Everything you thought could never possibly happen to anyone has happened to somebody, and yet you want each

year’s harrowing detail, itself a negotiation with time— pink sky, 1:23 am—the shore not far north, a car passing two streets away. What will you do tomorrow? You have a garden, its camellias & plums, its rosemary & rye. Everything will cost either time or money.

You argue too readily. You need far too much. There is only so much a command of language can excuse. You are free to create a second world if you find yourself dissatisfied with this one. You are free to decide what laws there shall be,

but once imposed, they must be obeyed. Is your world, your word, meant to be credible? You grow tired of your own plaintive tone. You must insist upon your own destiny yet not go out in an orgiastic flight of rapture. You must not indulge the thought:

was it only the newness of trains that vested them with such mystique, the sheen of the streets a mirage? Growth can be unintentional just as trust can be broken with the best of intentions. You are not nearly as original as you once thought

you were, or as charming, or prone. In the distance of your recollection could you feel the deer’s heart halt beating as it pulsed beneath your thumb? There, in the clearing, you perform your feint: to imagine this the whole story, the one where you reach the end and feel satisfied

& know well before the end that the end was coming, yes, you have anticipated the end & prepared well for it, you are to be congratulated, excellent your recognition of the imminent. No matter that you may have missed a quake or two, a volta

you mistook for only a short line, a hard day, a dosage to adjust. It’s like writer’s block but you’re still writing. You are a woman sitting on a porch, your future madness or children or death cause unknown, your past like a pressure change like a calling voice like a depth

charge, its heartsad day, its shadow & hole, the past the pendulums of incense & myrrh, the past an unconscionable love—the present the last supermoon of your annunciation. You—who? Laura, your second self. I want to be a part of you.


Everything is at once seen & a lens through which to see any other thing: the farm, the conversation, the gift. To be in motion, traveling furiously, and at the same time distant from another. The suspense of a subway platform. Billboards in stasis as cars range past. How motion becomes no antidote to distance.

In an open-air metro station you heard about on the radio The digital accruals dissect the most apparent orderings, then talk about it Well it’s unfair to blame it all on technology, after all it at least has the courtesy To leave an inalienable record of itself: We must find a new encoding for that which we have always sensed was coming.

To discover the old system has become insufficient only by virtue of finding another. Discrete as the stained-glass Dairy Queen off the old Highway D. (This could be described as my scarf period because my neck is cold or because my hair is long enough to graze them now, but nobody gives a shit about either.) Oh, Cali-lemon moon. Born upon a hostess lonesome in her grudges

again, upon the raccoons pawing for worms under the garbage row upon the GPS images of Pine Island and Mud Lake, tracing upon the candy-colored galleries & coastal hostels, benediction, benediction. Connective anxiety. Editing our interrelation, modifying the record of it. Once one has recorded an event

the memory of it transmutes. Take for example: a Polaroid of a man & a woman, all bedroom rock & whiskey milkshakes. You were not there when it was taken. It enters the dream realm, digitally, with surgical purpose. It loiters. Suddenly there they are looking at each other not talking about you,

in the line-broken map you made of them. Cruelty is an addiction just like any other. He loved her. It smarted. Then like a thunderclap, a baby girl newly reckons herself into the world. You can hear her wailing over the phone: she is wailing & you can hear her! (Welcome. Where it is in my feeble power

you will be made safe here.) You cannot believe her beauty, nor her devastating asymmetry. Will she sleep with her head facing the moon, or away. What shape will she make with that memory her mother holds in her palm. She will know what you know and name it something else entirely.


I think a lot about who to delete on Facebook based simply on whether they are interesting or not. It’s cruel, subjective to identify people like that: Relevant to Me or Not Today I was struck by an urge to write poems like a twenty-year-old girl writes poems wear her clothes I suppose these are the signs of aging nostalgia, contentment, a knowledge that she’s in there somewhere both lost and innate. When I was twenty-two I said no more couplets but what did I mean? I have wanted so long to speak plainly. This has been my project, to learn to speak in a way that others could understand (me).What is the value of that? So as not to be alone? A postcard never keeps you company. Language actually does very little to erode the appalling barriers between skin and not. So I have begun to write poems again. What is the value of that? I don’t mean to sound cynical in this, my twenty-ninth year, as the flap of the green curtain still speaks to me, as does the smoke-furred cat in the fiasco of day. What I have learned is you decide who I am to you. My value. How you cherish me is your purview and not mine. To a few I have said treat me with care because I am helpless to resist you and this is what it means to have a weakness for someone. In truth we are all the weak- nesses of shadows. The mystery that is our engine is how to be fortified by weakness, the way we are doubled by chance, the way that the way you are makes someone else fuller of self. Just as we undo one another, so do we multiply. We double ourselves, each other, with every mess of years, every ruination of love: we shatter and fragment and multiply in coalescence, oh, you know how we explode— how populous and how magnificent, our surrender.

Laura Goode

Laura Goode is a novelist, essayist, poet, and screenwriter living in San Francisco. She produced the feature film FARAH GOES BANG, which she co-wrote with Meera Menon; FGB premiered at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival and won the inaugural Nora Ephron Prize. Her first novel for young adults, SISTER MISCHIEF, was released by Candlewick Press in 2011, and called a “Best Book You Haven’t Read of 2011” by Vanity Fair online, as well as a 2012 Best of the Bay pick by the SF Bay Guardian. Her writing has appeared in New York Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Believer, The Millions, BOMB, The Rumpus, The New Inquiry, Boston Review, The Faster Times, Racialicious, Feministing, IndieWire, Denver Quarterly, Gigantic Sequins, Dossier, Fawlt, and others. Laura was raised outside Minneapolis and received her BA and MFA from Columbia University. @lauragoode /