Kyle Laws

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Artwork by Gene McCormick

If Tennessee Williams Had Blanche DuBois Meet Esther                                   
Blanche DuBois relied on the kindness of strangers                        
and without children I rely on the generosity of friends,
the cache hidden in recesses of an aging Victorian—

Esther, former owner with tight bun and wire rim glasses 
who stares in disapproval from a photo as I allow what is wild
to grow like spurge that flowers yellow in the courtyard,

welcomes all who come to the door except old time ranchers
who know the hazard to cattle, this no range, but a garden
of sculptures, abstract, bright green and a rust burnt by sun,

same as friends who tend their gardens in the desert,
faces furrowed as the rows they water, lines uneven as rain
falling in the distance from a mountain storm.

Under the Ghost of a Half Moon in the Day Sky
after a line by Marilyn McCabe

I drive a highway,
Raton in my rearview, Las Vegas ahead,
pull into a truck stop with seven 1950 automobiles
inside, mint condition, not sure how they got here,
no garage doors that I can see.

Off the side of the pass, a chapel, no road near,
where the faithful came on foot,
miners taking coal from the hills.
I will be back, know I can bushwhack up
from rails of the Southwest Chief.  

The Harvey House where the Chief stops in Las Vegas
is now only a dingy bar, neon quiet, in a corner
of Fred’s hotel where you could rent a narrow room,
single bed against the wall, bath down the hall,
so your arrival in Santa Fe Square

was not as dusty as the window you open for a first
scent of sage when the tracks angle southwest
from La Junta following the Santa Fe Trail.
Paths so worn, the ground so unforgiving
that even the ghost of a moon in the day sky

seems hung perpetually, unable to move,
unable to leave ruts of wagons near Fort Union.
There are a few cannons, pocked walls of barracks,
but what remains is the wind and the breath
of those who crossed here.

Visiting North Adams, Massachusetts

East of Albany on Route 2 over Berkshire Hills,
difficult even for a Colorado driver, I ask for directions.

Well meaning people start with one set, then try
and tell me a simpler way to get there so I won’t get lost,

which I do because no one has a sense of distance
in this narrow valley lined by once-mills.

I feel at home on a thinner scale, an enforced diet
after the Delaware Bay become river at Philadelphia

where I grew up and the plains of Pueblo where I live
with its turn of the last century steel mill that pumps out

rails, rods, and tubes fed by crushed cars, not coal from hills.
Here, artists' lofts and museums, but I’d rather the men

carried metal lunch buckets instead of leather satchels
with portfolios of art—which says more about

my father who worked forty years making nothing
but ball bearings; more about the son of a boiler maker

I married at nineteen, more about my grandfather,
a Depression era plumber paid in chickens and eggs

who kept the boilers running wherever they could live
the cheapest; more about the distance from where I began.

Apocalypse of the Snare Drum
   —after a performance by Ron Coulter, experimental percussionist

1.  Snare drum and 4 elephant bells

Two bells in each hand—one set rubbed across skin
a train pulling out of the Chicago station
gaining speed toward Galesburg
where Lincoln and Douglas debated
where you want to stop and get out for a breath of air
an independence not yet there
that culminated in the Reconstruction of the South
all 4 bells on the snare
Medgar Evers, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King,
Robert F. Kennedy.

2.  Plastic cards on snare

Prepare drum head with resin for friction
like wax to bottom of cross country skies for glide
but this sound is before the snow falls
when you’re dragged behind a truck across
a gravel parking lot to the edge of last snow
and then the slow steady slide
you hope is up but has been down before
and you have to pole out one side step at a time
tap-tap on snare the most familiar of sounds
a roll building until you are back in the car
heater blowing on gloves and boots
rap a tap-tap of the plowed road on the way
to the hotel with sheets someone’s slept in before.

3.  Snare drum, tuned bowl, old aluminum pot lid,
clam shell, clock gongs, bass bow, a couple of chains

Something leaving—not a station but a building empty
of clocks and phones you hear at night if you work late
the rumble of the boiler in the basement
as it cranks up against the cold
a late fall no longer Indian summer
but a summer when explorers should have turned
around and gone home
when pilgrims in the Scarlet Letter
should have put themselves in stocks
and let the women wear F for Free
because we are all guilty of something at summer’s end
when yellow leaves fall in the river
on the way to the Mississippi
down into the Gulf with the red letter A.

4.  2 Snare drums, 3 battery powered guitar amps
turned up for feedback that get different sounds as power fades

Ears vibrate at a different frequency
a long night’s journey into day
that may not come because
of the air raid siren and helicopter blades overhead
and the fear that you will be one of the few who survives
to a world no longer alive
and there is no sun to walk toward
or a moon to walk away from
only a bright light no longer a star
but a very large searchlight
and what sounds like a horn calling you home
to a place where you don’t know if you want to live there alone
Eden without Adam, without Eve
only what you are not sure is God the creator
but the destroyer. 

5.  Snare drum, thumb piano
after a line by Charles Bukowski, “laughter of the mutilated”

The sound inside the shell that’s crawled up on shore
a conch that listened to the radio out of Philadelphia
all the way down the river to bay to the Point
and it’s holed up inside the once munitions bunker
and the sound of Soul has been changed
by the propellers of ships on the way to refineries
by flat barges with steel on the way
to the Philadelphia Navy Yard
by trawlers pulling nets along the bottom for flounder
the only sound soft in the journey
a rope that ensnares.

6.  Chinese cymbal, snare drum, clock gongs

You go deeper
in the same way you climb the circular stairs
to the top of the lighthouse
but you’re circling down where no torpedo
can strike from a sub 3 miles off shore
but there’s still the reverberation of shots fired
still the explosion
still the swell of water over the bow
so you wave your arms to tread water
but it’s a stagnant air
the coming out of sleep from a nightmare
your stomach rumbling
and you want to find your way to the latrine
but you swallow a bile that tastes of lemon and gunpowder
the tree you cannot grow
the rifle you cannot fire.

7.  No snare drum, only bow and music stand

I want to say the sunrise is peach and an apricot
from trees of your childhood
but the plums all have bites of the squirrels
still in every tree
teeth marks that you cut around with a knife
but the wild spinach can be sautéed with bacon grease
that’s in the can on the stove 
and there’s still squash from last year’s crop
in the cellar and a store of brown sugar in the cabinet.
The cat has had enough of the torment
and brings one of the young ones
not as practiced at leaps from tree to tree.
You will share the evening meal
her hunting better than yours.


Kyle Laws is based out of the Arts Alliance Studios Community in Pueblo, CO.  Her collections include This Town: Poems of Correspondence with Jared Smith (Liquid Light Press, 2017); So Bright to Blind (Five Oaks Press, 2015); Wildwood (Lummox Press, 2014); My Visions Are As Real As Your Movies, Joan of Arc Says to Rudolph Valentino (Dancing Girl Press, 2013); and George Sand’s Haiti (co-winner of Poetry West’s 2012 award).  With six nominations for a Pushcart Prize, her poems and essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., U.K., and Canada.  She is the editor and publisher of Casa de Cinco Hermanas