Monday, April 4, 2011

Heart of Homicide

Dorianne Laux was born in Augusta, Maine in 1952. Before getting a B.A. in English from Mills College in 1988 she spent time working as a sanatorium cook, a gas station manager, a maid, and a donut holer. Since 1990 she has published five collections of poetry, the most recent, The Book of Men, published in February of this year. “Homicide Detective: A Film Noir” is a poem from The Book of Men that was recently showcased on The Writer’s Almanac. Title is enough to warn us this isn’t a poem about moonbeams and marigolds, and if Wordsworth is your ideal poet it might be good to stop here. Ms Laux’s is a vision well served by its dark crime scene splatter of greasy words.


Smell of diesel fuel and dead trees
on a flatbed soaked to the bone.
Smell of dusty heater coils.
We got homicides in motels and apartments
all across the city: under the beds,
behind the doors, in the bathtubs.
It’s where I come in at 5 AM,
paper cup of coffee dripping
down my sleeve, powdered
half-moon donut in my mouth.
Blood everywhere. Bodies
belly down, bodies faceup
on the kitchenette floor.
¿Donde esta? Que Sera.
We got loose ends, we got
dead ends, we got split ends,
hair in the drains, fingerprints
on glass. This is where I stand,
my hat glittery with rain,
casting my restless shadow.

These are the dark hours,
dark times are these, hours
when the clock chimes once
as if done with it, tired of it: the sun,
the highways, the damnable
flowers strewn on the fake wool rug.

These are the flayed heart’s flowers,
oil-black dahlias big as fists,
stems thick as wrists, striped, torn,
floating in the syrupy left-on music
but the bright world is done and I’m
a ghost touching the hair of the dead
with a gloved hand.

These are the done-for, the poor,
the defenseless, mostly women,
felled trees, limbs lashing
up into air, into rain,
as if time were nothing, hours,
clocks, highways, faces, don't step
on the petals, the upturned hands, stay
behind the yellow tape, let
the photographer’s hooded camera pass,
the coroner in his lab coat, the DA
in her creased black pants.

Who thought
to bring these distracting flowers?
Who pushed
out the screen and broke the lock?
Who let him in?
Who cut the phone cord, the throat,
the wrist, the cake
on a plate and sat down and ate
only half?

What good is my life if I can’t read the clues,
my mind the glue and each puzzle piece
chewed by the long-gone dog who raced
through the door, ran through our legs
and knocked over the vase,
hurtled down the alley and into the street?

What are we but meat, flesh
and the billion veins to be bled?
Why do we die this way, our jaws
open, our eyes bulging, as if there
were something to see or say?
Though today the flowers speak to me,
they way they sprawl in the streaked light,
their velvet lips and lids opening as I watch,
as if they wanted to go on living, climb
my pant legs, my wrinkled shirt, reach up
past my throat and curl over my mouth,
my eyes. Bury me in bloom.


  1. It is amazing to me that this poet had these menial jobs and comes forth with poetry like this. Wonder if in her early years she had always wanted to write poetry?

  2. Excellent! Just spent a weekend watching Film Noir and the mood is still with me. Thank you!

  3. Poetry Noir. A new beast to roam the land of the darkly evocative. Love it. What does that say about me?


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America