Wednesday 10 April 2024

Daniel Lawless, "I Tell You This Now"


Daniel Lawless is the author most recently of The Gun My Sister Killed Herself With; his current book, I Tell You This Now was released in March, 2024. Recent poems appear in FIELD, Barrow Street, Prairie Schooner, Ploughshares, Poetry International, Los Angeles Review, upsteet, SOLSTICE, Manhattan Review, Massachusetts Review, JAMA, and Dreaming Awake: New Prose Poetry from the U.S., Australia, and the U.K., among others. A recipient of a continuing Shifting Foundation grant, he is the founder and editor of Plume:  A Journal of Contemporary Poetry, Plume Editions, and the annual Plume Poetry anthologies.

About I Tell You This Now, by Daniel Lawless
I Tell You This Now, although un-sectioned, and addressing any number of miscellania, concerns itself most prominently  with memories of his youth in Louisville, Kentucky, including sundry elegies, narrative and lyrical, composed in a variety of  styles - "definitions," as well as  prose, list, and ekphrastic poems.

You can read more about I Tell You This Now on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read three sample poems from the collection. 

From I Tell You This Now

Family Photographs: My Brother, Solar Eclipse, 1965

In a year, Haldol, ECT, the closed gates of a sanitarium. 
But for now—how happy you were. To be eleven and unconcerned
For once with school, the Cubs, who punched who.
For a few minutes to be unlearned, to be taught
A new world. O, distant boy, how marvelous 
It all must have been, to be turned into a ghoul with your friends, 
To spurn the murmur of grown-ups with their highballs and hair
On the deck for a lowering sky burned sepia, orange. 
At three o’clock to feel yourself disappear inside yourself —
To cast no shadow. And – so long ago now 
how did you put it? —the delicious, insistent thought
What if it stays like this? To yearn and yet not to know yet 
What that yearning meant. 


Freudenschreck, or "intense pleasure-fright" – leave it to the Germans   
To coin a word for the fleeting sense of being seized
By such an inexplicable joy it verges on terror. 
Or maybe it’s inexplicable terror pretending to be joy. 
Also, a physical phenomenon: neurologists say the amygdala 
Glows red as a jack ball whether subjects gaze at images of planetesimals or gallows.
Picture a joyride, the Appalachian pin-brides of Eugene Meatyard. 
Put yourself in the shoes of Aiyana Clemmons, 44,
Of Peru, Indiana, a long-time congregant of the End Days 
Christian Church according to the Gazette, who may have had a seizure 
That caused her to "shiver all over" although another passerby reported
Hearing her shout "Praise Him!" or "Praise God!" before "she sort of rocked him" 
Before casting that beautiful child into that cold river.


Though childhood is not what a child would know
To call it—her corpus callosum isn't quite
Connected yet—and anyway why would she want to?
When you're six you're a ghost inside another ghost,
Un-pierceable by anything in the substantial world,
Where this and this and this keeps happening.
A knob of milky quartz juts out of a rock.
There's a man on the moon, a box of matches adorned with a key.
You wear your life lightly
As the dog you name wears the name you name it.

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