The Cortland Review

Dorianne Laux
"Dog Poets" by Dorianne Laux.

Dorianne Laux
Five poems by Dorianne Laux.

This marks an author's first online publication Carl Adamshick
This marks an author's first online publication William Archila
Wes Benson
Roy Bentley
Michelle Bitting
Kim Bridgford
Stacey Lynn Brown
Grant Clauser
Michael Dickman
This marks an author's first online publication Matthew Dickman
This marks an author's first online publication Geri Digiorno
Cheryl Dumesnil
Molly Fisk
Jeannine Hall Gailey
Kate Lynn Hibbard
Major Jackson
Greg Kosmicki
Keetje Kuipers
Michael McGriff
This marks an author's first online publication Philip Memmer
This marks an author's first online publication Jude Nutter
John Repp
R. T. Smith
This marks an author's first online publication Brian Turner
Book Review
"Sister" by Nickole Brown—Book Review, by John Hoppenthaler.

Book Review
"Superman: The Chapbook" by Dorianne Laux—Book Review, by David Rigsbee.

Jude Nutter

This marks an author's first online publication Jude Nutter was born North Yorkshire, England, and raised in Germany. She is the author of three collections: Pictures of the Afterlife (Salmon Poetry, Ireland, 2002), The Curator of Silence (University of Notre Dame Press, 2007) and I Wish I Had a Heart Like Yours, Walt Whitman (University of Notre Dame Press, 2009).

A Man Walks into a Bar    

You discover you are suddenly hungry
to sleep with men you do not know, men
with whom you have no story, which means you
can reinvent history, which means
you can refuse anything at all

because your mother is dying and lust,
after all, is a kind of rage.  

Every day at noon the builders
next door set their tool belts down
like holsters and sit in the shade
where each gently unwraps his sandwich;
you hear the crack and quick hiss
of canned drinks being opened.  
Even the ruckus of their labour—
their saws and hammers and drills—
keens the edge of hunger, flushes every lock
in your body with rain. A thirst
like a kind of mourning. And the man

you love, who is, for a while, willing
to be any man you might desire, suggests
that you and he meet somewhere
and then pretend to be strangers; this way,
he says, you can try to live,

for a while, in a different story.  
You arrive before he does and when
he walks in he is simply a man
walking into a bar; a stranger sheathed
in leather, who slides onto the high
chrome stool next to yours and places
his bike helmet down on the counter.
And he's good, because his flirting is feral
in a way that is not familiar. So tell me,

he says, about your life. It is easy to lie
about death and you hear yourself saying no
to the wet kerf of the ulcer
and the open blister; no to the dressings
that are designed not to stick but do and so
lift away, more often than not, the body's
relentless attempts to close itself over. No
to each new drug and the side effect
of each false promise. You refuse

the metallic aftertaste of the world and the sore
rag of her tongue. Each pair
of white cloth gloves she has to wear
to keep the skin of her fingers from tearing.  
For her, the spindrift of panic, the yoke
of scapulas, femurs like ridgepoles inside
her pajamas, you refuse. No to her backbone
like the keel of a boat. You watch

your reflection in the mirrored visor
of his helmet—distorted, defiant, refusing
everything. Such words sound useful—
yoke, ridgepole, boat—as if death
were something solid, the bones'
honest rising toward the constant licking
of the world, and you know
you should refuse even this world,

which allows you such language
but the danger is that you might end up
with nothing at all. Not even a body. Not
even death. Your mother, you tell him, once
had a dream in which she dreamed
she was sleeping, and while she was sleeping
a great violence occurred. In the dream
she woke to splinters of bone on the doorstep.  
Too slick to sweep, her broom
washed over them like wind. The skull,
too, of an animal she could not name
in which something still knocked
like a tiny engine. She went inside, then,
to think about the violence. The violence

that had occurred while she was sleeping.
As she was asleep inside her own dream.
It's a metaphor, you tell him: that other self,
the one who falls asleep inside the dream to escape
the attention of the dreamer. I mean,
who among us hasn't tried it. I mean,
just look at this life: one entrance, one exit,
and this

is when he chooses to place his hands, fingers
splayed, one on each side of your skull, and pull
you toward him with such
imperative you think of animals
roped and dragged toward slaughter and then
he kisses you, firmly and completely,
the way you like it, and you are opening
his jacket on impulse, the zipper
chirring over its teeth with a wide,
invitational cadence, and there you are
then, suddenly, back inside the only story
you've been given, where your mother dreams
her own healing and then wakes

into an unruly sense of wellness; in which his tongue
is so familiar in your mouth: small bird, you think,      

caught beneath a flung net and brought down
still flying.



© 2009 The Cortland Review