Poem of the Week | November 28, 2022

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Still Life Dark as a Fig” by Lauren Camp.

Lauren Camp is the Poet Laureate of New Mexico and author of five books, most recently Took House (Tupelo Press). An emeritus Black Earth Institute fellow, she has won a Dorset Prize and been named finalist for the Arab American Book Award and Adrienne Rich Award for Poetry. Her poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Blackbird, and Beloit Poetry Journal, and her work has been translated into Mandarin, Turkish, Spanish, and Arabic. www.laurencamp.com


Still Life Dark as a Fig

Two months of meat and grain and only one thing
happens at a time. Only time happens, we drink
wine and tea and unbecome, we go to sleep. My love sleeps,
hatching sounds from upper and lower surfaces
of his throat. Awake, I keep collecting the verses.
I get up. I lie on the couch. The scenery is a substance,
alone, fixed. The whisky shot is irascible. A long roaring boat
and a whole gesture, it swishes through me. I let the cat sit
on my bones. I’m safe on earth. And before long
it is still night. I see more of it at the window. I am half
in half out of a trance. I ask my dead father to come down
from his dance party with my heavenly mother
and take me any place he wants. Coyotes gossip in the pocket
of our property, their tongues through the bluepurple
night. I ask for this bit of nothing. Still, life dark as a fig.
The dark flops further onto me, an equivalent geometry
of every direction. The dark knows
it will last for years. Even though the iron day starts.


Author’s Note

Over an exhausting three-year period, I wrote notes and lines about my father settling into Alzheimer’s Disease. Because I expected the end, I felt sure I was prepared for it. But when it came, I felt hollowed out. I had lost the most intriguing person I would likely ever know. And it was winter all around—in climate, in politics. I consider myself good at grieving. By this, I mean, I am willing to be embraced by it, rather than push it away and let it surface later in some less healthy way. Even so, I hope not to find it again for a while. Grief changes every perspective. It is uncontrollable and consuming—and then, one day when you’ve been in it so long that it seems part of your skin, you realize there has been a shift, often in the most minuscule way. Suddenly, it will be spring, or there will appear some other bit of light, some way you get to move forward again.