Issue > Poetry
Laura Van Prooyen

Laura Van Prooyen

Laura Van Prooyen is author of two collections of poetry, Our House Was on Fire (Ashland Poetry Press 2015) nominated by Philip Levine and winner of the McGovern Prize and Inkblot and Altar (Pecan Grove Press 2006). Her poems have also appeared in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Ploughshares and Prairie Schooner. Van Prooyen lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Once, a Field

Always wrapped in her red sweater, Frances walked
against the wind. First when the fields were open

and onions stung the air. Then when bare beams
rose into frames, reaching up from fertile soil.

Split-levels took shape and filled with strangers,
and Frances walked among them, her hair

flinging like a flame. She could have been
an Apostle. She may have spoken in tongues.

Frances walked where there used to be
no boundaries, where before lives stacked up

in this place, the horizon shone unobscured.

Properties Of Change

First there was the chicken coop, and the chickens
clucking the world away.

Now wind whips fire
in a metal can, sparking embers from the leaves.
Frances holds her hands to the heat, or

her paws. Or claws. Or fins if we were to trace
the origin of such strange tools. Frances

waves ash from my hair.
I don't want the smoke
to disappear. I've grown lone. Sinking

is one word for what happens to old foundations.

The coop was torn down. Its weathered boards stripped,
despite my tired wish
for the place to stay the same. Ashes

spiral away
from the burning can. Away from chicken spirits

with nowhere to roost. Away from me,
swooning in leaf-smoke, hands coming loose.

Two White Horses

A white horse in a green field
twitches its skin beside its twin, swishing
its tail. If today's lesson

were about symmetry, Frances,
you'd be across the table, eating chips
and drinking a cold Imperial. This place

could be any place. A fly I can't see
agitates the horse chomping clover
next to his stunt double.

A barrel cut in half makes two troughs.
The horse sloshes his snout in the water,
squelching both quiet and thirst. But,

even when the field is green,
the horses alive, the beer cold,
and the chips crunchy, a dachshund

can run toward the hooves, barking.
The dog can pulse, full of piss and vinegar,
can inhale and exhale, inhale

and bark, troubling the air with noise,
troubling the hoof that meets its chest,
can exhale, and create the opposite of sound.


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