Waiting to Taste the First Salt


A pacemaker

clocked out


her days. Two doctors

had removed her gall


bladder, and left

ninety-four years


of stored bile. She’d cling

till the bitter end,


we figured,

waiting shamefaced


for the acidic



of her words that spread

like scars


to settle and dissolve.

In her cobwebbed voice,


she said

she wouldn’t make it


and no one held her hand.

What little strength


we had. Her body wasted

with fever


and vomit.

Her back clenched,


bladder flattened. Death put on

her polyester gown,


her sparse body silenced

to a star of fragile bones.



Is Empty He Says


Every two weeks I ache

in his conversations his breakable

stories his word-spelling the useless sticky

ways he repeats what he knew

and then his numbers

incomplete but ticking how

they enchant and pass

through many times

I stood I stand

by the toaster and listen

to the smell of his blinkings

his voice still

music and the clear echoing

and the cup empties and the cup

is empty he says goodbye

eight ways says he is guided and I am full

of the last line next word the scorch

of fortune his unhappy leanings

and then he transposes nouns the days

narrow not belonging and I listen but know

nothing the phone line dead



About the Author

Lauren’s third book, One Hundred Hungers, won the Dorset Prize (Tupelo Press, 2016). She is a 2015-2018 Black Earth Institute Fellow and the producer/host ofAudio Saucepan on Santa Fe Public Radio. More at www.laurencamp.com.